(Courtesy of Wheels of Love) Dozens of supporters of an Israeli pediatric rehabilitation hospital will gather along the Eastern Shore of Maryland October 24-26 for a three-day bike ride to raise funds for the care of children with a wide range of physical disabilities, both acquired and congenital.
The 130-mile charity bike ride, called Wheels of Love, benefits ALYN Hospital, Israel’s only pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation facility, which provides the innovative care and treatment needed to enhance the quality of life for the children treated at the hospital.
Hailing from all across the country, for many of these cyclists, the Wheels of Love ride is a meaningful annual tradition. For Jeff Blye of Great Neck, New York, the Wheels of Love event allowed him to turn his passion for biking into cycling for a cause—supporting the children of ALYN and the hospital’s mission and becoming increasingly involved along the way. The Maryland event will be Blye’s 15th year participating in the Wheels of Love ride.
“This started as just a bike ride and a trip to Israel. Now, it has evolved into so much more,” said Blye, who first attended the event in 2007. “Being able to take my passion and use it to help the thousands of children hoping for a brighter future is one of life’s greatest joys.” Blye says his memories of the children of ALYN have filled him throughout the years. “If you want to know what drives us to ride our bikes for hundreds of miles to the brink of exhaustion, come meet the children of ALYN.”
And for Blye, it’s personal, too. In 2008, while on a morning training ride, he was run down by a thoughtless driver. He blacked out and suffered a concussion and injuries.
“I am acutely aware of how fortunate I am to be alive today and recovering from my injuries only serves to remind me how the children of ALYN struggle every day,” he said.
Blye’s wife, Joanne, has volunteered during Wheels of Love and currently serves as president on the board of directors for American Friends of ALYN Hospital. “Over the years, we’ve become intimately involved with both the ride and the hospital. It’s been a wonderful and very special experience for us,” said Blye. “The whole family has been involved. My son and daughter have also joined for a ride on our team in 2016 where my daughter dubbed us ‘Team Blyecycles’.”
New York-based cycling team The Grumpy Roadsters, formed in 2014, has been the largest team involved in the ride. Ed Joyce of New York is captain of the Grumpy Roadsters and vice president on the board of directors for American Friends of ALYN. He is an avid cyclist but notes that the Wheels of Love Bike Ride provides far more than just a cycling event.
“People will spend thousands of dollars on cycling vacation trips to see new, incredible places, and this ride is just as high quality at a fraction of the cost, plus you get to help the kids at ALYN,” Joyce said. “It’s an amazing opportunity to do something you love but then you have this additional opportunity to help people while you’re doing it.”
The 130-mile ride is divided across three days and the route will take participants through the scenic backroads of Cambridge, the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and the historic land around Chesapeake Bay.
Since 2000, more than 1,000 dedicated bikers have traveled to Israel on an annual basis to participate in the ride, which traditionally spans five days. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the ride to go virtual, and in May 2021, a single-day ride in Morriston, New Jersey, raised over $130,000. This year is the first time that American riders can participate in a multi-day ride in the United States. Israeli cyclists will also be participating in the 22nd annual Wheels of Love ride, this year in southern Israel, beginning October 24.
“Wheels of Love is the hospital’s largest fundraising event of the year, supporting the thousands of children with disabilities who rely on the innovative and personalized treatment ALYN Hospital provides,” said Maayan Aviv, executive director of American Friends of ALYN Hospital. “As one of the world’s leading pediatric rehabilitation facilities, ALYN’s innovation lab, ALYNnovation, and state-of-the-art facilities produce life-changing pediatric assistive technologies for children with disabilities worldwide.”
Online registration for Wheels of Love U.S.A., which is taking place October 24-26, is now open. The $500 registration fee covers accommodations for the three-day event at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort, lunches, a dinner reception and more. Registered cyclists pledge to raise $2,500 each. Sponsorship and underwriting opportunities are available as well.
To ensure the safety of participants, COVID-19 precautions will be in place throughout the event. All participants will be required to submit proof of vaccination. A virtual ride, #MyALYNRide, is available for those committed to supporting ALYN Hospital and unable to travel to Maryland.
For more information about Wheels of Love U.S.A., visit https://alynus.org/events-2/wheels-of-love-2021-md/.