For love and money

Have you ever ridden a bicycle to a bar mitzvah?

Portland’s Steve Rosenberg (Rosy) is preparing to do just that. The bar mitzvah is in Israel and celebrates the 13th birthday of the Wheels of Love, an international charity bike ride held every fall in Israel to benefit the physically disabled children of Alyn Hospital.

Rosy will be among more than 500 “guests” who will be part of the five-day celebration. This will be his eighth year participating in the ride. Not only does he train for the ride’s toughest route – the Challenge Route covering more than 300 miles – he also takes on the job of fundraising every year. As the sole rider from Portland, Rosy is thrilled to have contributed to the nearly $20 million raised in the first 12 years of the ride.

Wheels of Love 2012 will be Nov. 11-15. Beginning in Arad, the caravan winds thorugh southern Israel into Jerusalem. Approximately 200 riders from the U.S., Canada and Europe will join 200 Israelis as five-day riders. Wheels of Love has grown from an “accidental” ride of nine Israelis to the largest multi-day charity bike ride in the Middle East.

Tzedakah and tikkun olam are woven throughout every minute of the ride. Children come to Alyn Hospital seeking Alyn’s unique multidisciplinary rehabilitation treatment. Care is provided for children from birth to young adulthood who have physical disabilities as a result of neuromuscular conditions, cancer surgery, car accidents, acts of terror and other life happenstances. Alyn is a private, nonprofit hospital. The ride raises funds to bridge the gap in funding between health insurance reimbursement and the cost of Alyn’s amazing care.

The ride is an athletic challenge for everyone, but even the steepest hill is less daunting when one thinks of the children of Alyn – many of whom spend their lives in wheelchairs, dependent on respirators. The huge bar mitzvah party on the night of Nov. 14 will be followed by the emotional peak of the ride on Nov. 15 when Rosy and his fellow riders cycle to Alyn Hospital and are greeted by the children, their families and the Alyn staff. Children thank the riders for helping them, and the riders thank the children for inspiring them.

“As many know, I like to ride my bicycle and I like to be in Israel. The ride gives me the chance to do both! What is even better than that is knowing that I can enjoy my addictions while also helping these severally disabled and injured kids at Alyn Hospital.”

Everyone is invited to attend this extraordinary bar mitzvah. Information on the ride is available at www.alynride.org. If you can’t ride this year and want to support Rosy’s fund-raising efforts, visit www.wolusa.org/steverosenberg.

If you are celebrating your own bar or bat mitzvah this year and are looking for the perfect tzedakah project, the children of Alyn are incredibly deserving of your effort. Alyn Hospital has a Mitzvah of Love Program with a project to suit every size and any interest. For more information, call the American Friends of Alyn Hospital at 212-869-8085 or email friends@alynus.org.

Cathy Lanyard is executive director of the American Friends of Alyn Hospital.

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