November 6, 2005

Discovering Israel via the ‘Wheels of Love’ charity bike ride for the Alyn Hospital.Two years ago, while visiting my brother-in-lay Michael in Israel, I saw a home video that changed my life. The video was filmed by Michael during his participation as a rider in the 2003 ‘Wheels of Love’ charity bicycle ride for the Alyn Therapeutic Rehabilitation Hospital in Jerusalem.

Alyn is the country’s only rehabilitation center for infants, children and young adults who require intensive therapy for disabilities stemming from congenital conditions, accidents, illness and terror attacks. The center annually treats over 5,000 physically handicapped children who suffer from congenital birth defects, debilitation muscular and neuromuscular diseases and disabilities.

Throughout the narrative, Michael was grunting and heaving as he climbed the massive hills of Israel. He probably used the phrase, “this is unbelievable” a dozen times.

After seeing the video, I was hooked. I love to ride my bike and I love Israel. What could be better than combining the two? So last year, I signed up to join the annual ride.

While I hadn’t even heard of Alyn before watching Michael’s video, a visit to the hospital before the ride was certainly an eye opener. These kids were struggling to learn how to walk or stand, some were even riding therapeutic tricycles. They stole my heart.

The ‘Wheels of Love’ ride was initiated six years ago with only 10 riders, and has grown dramatically each year. Last year, 235 cyclists raised $ 1,400,000 in sponsorships to benefit Alyn. The best way I can describe last year’s ride, which went from Mitzpeh Ramon in the south to Jerusalem, is that it is a once in a lifetime experience. The beautiful scenery, the wonderful people and the very challenging terrain combined to make it one of the best weeks of my life.

But luckily, the ‘Wheels of Love’ ride is an experience that you can do every year. Nothing could have stopped me from returning this week for the 2005 ride which is taking place this week (Indeed, when I switched jobs six months ago, I was assured by my new bosses that I could go!)

So, when you read this, I’ll be participating in Israel’s largest multi-day charity sports event, with 324 other riders from nine countries, ranging in age from 15-72, cycling for five days through the Golan Heights and down to Mediterranean Coast.

I can’t wait to start climbing the hills of Israel again in support of the children of Alyn.

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