Dozens of supporters of an Israeli pediatric rehabilitation hospital will gather along the Eastern Shore of Maryland October 24-26 for a charity bike ride to raise funds for the care of children with a wide range of physical disabilities, both acquired and congenital.
The 140-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.
Sam Alexander, of Springfield, first joined ALYN Hospital’s Wheels of Love charity ride in 2006 in Israel. Alexander was introduced to the ride through a friend who asked him to help train for the event. “My first thought when he asked me was, ‘why would anyone haul their bike to Israel when you can ride here?’” said Alexander. “Now, many who know me ask me if I’m doing the ride this year.”
This is Alexander’s 10th Wheels of Love event. “I love to ride, and I’ve participated in other charity rides, but I felt more of a personal connection to this one,” he said. “ALYN has real needs, and this is the hospital’s largest fundraiser, where every penny counts.”
Alexander’s sponsors applaud the sacrifices he makes to support the hospital, traveling and schlepping his bike halfway around the world to Israel to cycle for the children of ALYN. In 2019, he was recognized for achieving a top level of fundraising for his participation life span with Wheels of Love. “You can see the impact you make on the children’s lives firsthand,” he said. “ALYN literally works miracles, and its innovation center has developed so many great technologies that help children across the world. Every kid needs something different, and they just do not give up.”
Over the years, Alexander has shared his passion for Wheels of Love with his family, friends and community members who have joined him on the ride. “In 2009, I brought my dentist with me because she loves to cycle,” he said. “She’s not Jewish, but she wanted to try riding in an exotic place and believed and supported in the cause.”
The 140-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. In addition, one-day ride options are available with a reduced registration fee and lower fundraising minimum.
Since 2000, more than a thousand 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 Morristown, 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.
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. The registration fee for the one-day ride is $180 with a $720 fundraising minimum. 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/.
Maayan Aviv is the executive director, American Friends of ALYN Hospital.