How Wheels of Love is making a change for patients at ALYN Hospital

Wheels of Love is a fundraiser that supports the financial pressures of ALYN Hospital.

 WHEELS OF LOVE participants. ‘This was no longer just about cycling.’ (photo credit: OREN NAHSON/Flash90)
WHEELS OF LOVE participants. ‘This was no longer just about cycling.’
(photo credit: OREN NAHSON/Flash90)

If you want to know what drives me and dozens of others every year to ride our bikes for hundreds of miles and push ourselves to the brink of exhaustion when our legs are screaming “no more,” then come meet the children of ALYN Hospital. This is my 15th year participating in the Wheels of Love charity bike ride benefiting ALYN Hospital, Israel’s only pediatric rehabilitation center.

What started in 2007 as just another bike ride and a great excuse to travel to Israel has evolved into a heartfelt journey of challenges and emotions. Over the last 15 years, my entire family has become intimately involved with Wheels of Love.

After I retired as a technology professional with a background in networks and cybersecurity, I became a certified spin instructor at my local gym in Great Neck, New York, where I had initially heard about the Wheels of Love charity ride from a fellow cyclist.

On my first Wheels of Love ride I toured ALYN Hospital, which provides innovative and personalized care to children with a wide range of disabilities, both acquired and congenital. I saw firsthand the incredible struggles and determination of the children. After I returned home, it took weeks to emotionally recover from the experience. It drastically changed my outlook on life.

During my second year participating, my wife, Joanne, joined me as a volunteer for the event. While she toured the hospital, overcome with emotion, I was looking at all the improvements that had been made in just the previous year. This was no longer just about cycling. I could see the real difference we made in these children’s lives, and year after year we continue to see the direct impact the fundraising makes. My wife now serves as president on the board of directors for American Friends of ALYN Hospital, the New York-based group advocating and raising funds for the hospital.

Wheels of Love  (credit: Courtesy)Wheels of Love (credit: Courtesy)

Wheels of Love is the hospital’s largest fundraiser of the year, supporting the financial pressures of the hospital and helping it provide life-changing care and produce innovative assistive technologies that help children around the world. Being able to take my passion for cycling and use it to help the thousands of children hoping for a brighter future is one of life’s greatest joys. Memories of the children of ALYN over the last decade and a half have filled me during hard times and challenges.

In 2008, while on a morning training ride, I was run down by a thoughtless driver. I blacked out, suffered a concussion, and sustained multiple injuries. I am acutely aware of how fortunate I am to be alive today. Recovering from those injuries only serves to remind me of the battle the children of ALYN Hospital face every single day.

The highlight of my involvement with Wheels of Love came in 2016 when my son and daughter both joined me for the ride when my daughter named us “Team BlyeCycles.” It was a wonderful and very special experience for our family.

With the difficulties of traveling overseas during the pandemic, I was relieved to see this year’s ride happening in the Chesapeake Bay, the first multi-day ride in the United States. Dozens of supporters from across the country, for many of whom the ride has become a meaningful annual tradition, will gather on October 24 in Maryland. The three-day bike ride will take us through the historic backroads of Cambridge and through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. 

Each year the ride is challenging and takes an emotional toll. It’s a bike ride of a lifetime. On rides in Israel, days of pain and grueling cycling suddenly vanish when a sweet child of ALYN wraps a medal around your neck at the end of the ride congratulating you on your efforts and support. These children are special, and ALYN is a unique institution. I’m thrilled to be able to support them from afar this year.

Ride a bike, change a life. It’s that simple. 

The writer is a retired technology professional, certified spin instructor, and musician with a passion for biking.