For the past five years, I’ve traveled to Israel with my father to participate in the ALYN Wheels of Love five-day fundraiser ride. ALYN Hospital is Israel at its best. As a world leader in pediatric rehabilitative medicine, ALYN is the only facility of its kind in Israel and the Middle East. By combining innovative therapy solutions with the most cutting-edge assistive technology, ALYN is able to help children with the most severe of disabilities live at home among their family and community, attend their local school and become full, active members of society.
ALYN treats all children equally, regardless of religion or race, and is a recognized model facility in providing services in a manner sensitive to the patient’s cultural background. ALYN also exports its knowledge and innovation far beyond Israel’s borders to help children around the world. On our third ride (2017), we heard about a donated 3D printing department that was developing new prosthetic devices. All creations are uploaded to a free, online repository, for use by anybody around the world. Just last month, 300 wheelchairs, developed specifically for Third World environments, were delivered to the children of Uzbekistan. My father and I raise more than $10,000 each year to support the hospital; the 350+ riders together raise some $3 million annually. It is a great cause and a great experience to see the hospital and the country.
The ride is extremely well-organized and offers something for everyone. Each year we ride a different route, alternating between the north and south. There are seven different levels of difficulty including on-road and off-road options. My father and I are on the touring group. We ride approximately 50 km each day and then spend the afternoon visiting a tourist site in the area. A hiking group has also been introduced. All groups consist of repeat riders with whom we have become close friends. Indeed, on the first ride, I met Berry Smurlick from right here in Hamilton—it’s a great feeling seeing him again each year. Together, we see sights and experience Israel in a completely different way—I’ve learned more on these five rides than the two dozen trips I’ve taken to Israel previously.
However, the most moving experience by far is riding with a group of ALYN children—The Swift and the Bold. These children, with their uniquely tailored bicycles and extensive support teams, train all year long to be able to join us. I rode behind a 12-year old girl using a hand-cranked tricycle who lost the use of her legs. I saw her overcome the challenge of her disability. I saw her parents helping to push her up some of the steeper hills. I saw the whole group celebrate as they showed the world that being disabled does not make you unable. It made my aches and pains from the long rides melt away and seem utterly trivial. If this young girl could overcome the struggle she faced every day of her life, I could certainly overcome my temporary difficulties.
Doing this ride with my dad, raising these funds for the children of ALYN, and experiencing Israel in a unique and inspiring way brings me back every year. The quality time with my dad is a something I will cherish forever. The amazing thing is that I’m typically the one trying to keep up with him—only on the hills do I stand a chance of getting ahead! On the fifth and last day, we ride into ALYN Hospital to the cheers of parents and patients alike—this is as much a highlight of the year for them as it is for us. While the exertion of five days riding seems challenging, the mutual exhilaration experienced as one of the children puts a medallion around my neck makes me both proud and humbled. Proud to help, and humbled by the sheer effort these children exert every day to overcome their physical challenges.
I did not do this alone. Many community members supported me through donations and encouragement. Thank you to all! Anybody who wants to contribute in the future, or become a rider/hiker, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together, we can change more lives and help show the world how Israel really is a light onto the nations.
You can also visit www.alynactive.org or call Canadian Friends of ALYN Special Projects at 647-558-8522.