[VIDEO & PHOTOS IN EXTENDED ARTICLE]
The sun shone on 335 blue and yellow bike shirts early this morning as the 2014 Bike4Chai ride began from Piscataway, New Jersey. The two-day event culminates in a joyous and inspiring ride into Camp Simcha Special, Chai Lifeline’s overnight camp for children with chronic illnesses, early afternoon tomorrow.
“This is clearly the largest fundraising cycling event and the largest per-capita fund raiser on two wheels in the world,” said Rabbi Sruli Fried, MSW, the event’s director. “As of this morning, our riders have raised more than $4 million dollars to bring joy and hope to Chai Lifeline’s children and their families around the world.”
The riders were clearly energized and ready to be on their way as they gathered outside, laughing and joking on their bicycles. Honorary captain Avi Newhouse cut the ribbon that sent them on their way. Newhouse, 12, is fighting leukemia. Two years ago, he visited Camp Simcha to cheer on his father, who was riding with Bike4Chai. This year, he will again be in Camp Simcha, this time as a first-year camper.
DAY 1: 109 MILES TO SCRANTON
The group will ride 109 miles today and climb more than 7,000 feet before arriving at their overnight stop in Scranton, PA. The SAG-supported ride includes 7 rest stops today. At mile 50, riders will be treated to a deluxe lunch and BMX-bike stunt show.
“We try to do things that will energize the riders for the second half of the day,” said Bike4Chai producer Yoel Margolese. Margolese has invited both Spiderman and the Incredible Hunk to lunch today to compare notes about climbing with the cyclists.
DAY 2: 65 MORE MILES TO CAMP SIMCHA, AND A RAUCOUS WELCOME
The first riders arrived in Scranton at about 2:30. The last should be there by 8:00. All will be tired, but the ride tomorrow is the highlight of months of training and fundraising.
“Tomorrow we ride 65 miles and climb another 4,500 feet. It’s exhausting, but we finish at Camp Simcha, and that’s always an extraordinary feeling.”
Tomorrow’s ride into camp will be led by the top fundraisers, Ralph Herzka, Jack Eisenberger, Miguel Singer, Nathan Low, and Brian Haimm, each of whom has raised more than $100,000 this year.
RIDE IS DISPLAY OF ACHDUS, SAYS RABBI SCHOLAR
The fact that 335 riders have come together to help those less fortunate is a tremendous display of Jewish unity that is a zechus for our soldiers and nation, avowed Rabbi Simcha Scholar, Chai Lifeline’s executive vice president.
“We are in the midst of one of the hardest wars fought by the Jewish people in the last 100 years,” he said. “To raise money and awareness for sick children collectively, in the name of our people, is a great show of unity and Ahavas Yisroel reverberates here and across the ocean in Eretz Yisroel.”
Rabbi Scholar noted that many of the riders had affixed Israeli flags to their cycles to show their support for the Israeli army and the Jewish nation.
“They will be riding in New York and Pennsylvania, but like the rest of us, a piece of their hearts is in Israel right now.”
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