Seasoned bike riders know when preparing for a ride in a far-away location, there’s only so much they can do. The terrain will be different, and, in some cases, so will the elevation. That was the main challenge David Levenfeld, CEO of Storage Pros Management LLC in Boston, Mass., faced when preparing last summer for the ALYN Wheels of Love Bike Ride from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2.
The ride, which is held in Israel, is a five-day, 225-mile ride that gained nearly 15,000 cumulative feet of elevation as the ride progressed. “During training, I pushed distances and sought hills to attempt to replicate what I’d face there,” says Levenfeld, “but there was nothing comparable to the hills and climbs I encountered.”
Still, the 10-day trip for Levenfeld and his son, Jacob, was worth every minute spent training and participating. The money Levenfeld raised goes toward treating children at the ALYN Children’s Hospital in Jerusalem. The hospital is Israel’s only pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation facility. ALYN treats children with a wide range of congenital and acquired conditions including cerebral palsy, neuromuscular diseases, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, burns, injures from terrorist attacks, and injuries from motor vehicle accidents.
Levenfeld and his company, Storage Pros Management, aren’t new to philanthropy. His partner, Ian Bernstein, is also president of the Gary Bernstein Community Health Clinic in Pontiac, Mich. The clinic provides free medical and dental services to the community. “I think those of us fortunate to have found some success find philanthropy and donating to causes very rewarding,” says Levenfeld. “I think the adage that it is sweeter to give than to receive applies.”
Perhaps it’s the company’s long-standing commitment to fund raising and philanthropy that made Levenfeld’s ride for ALYN such a success. Levenfeld raised $25,000 in donations, the most a first-year rider has raised since the ride began 18 years ago. Some of those donations were collected from his colleagues in the self-storage industry.
About The Hospital
The ALYN Children’s Hospital is an 81-year-old medical facility that treats children with profound genital or acquired diseases and injuries. “Many children treated here suffer from cancer or have been injured in terrorist attacks, burns, or vehicular accidents,” says Chaim Wizman, director of special projects at ALYN Children’s Hospital. “The hospital treats a diverse population of Jewish, Arab, and Christian children without regard to race or religion.”
The facility prides itself on being innovators in the field of pediatric rehabilitation. “At ALYN, conventional wisdom is tossed to the wind, and progress is achieved routinely that would be unfathomable in a more conventional environment,” says Wizman.
According to its website, “ALYN Hospital employs a multidisciplinary staff, including doctors and para-medical therapists. The families of all the patients receive instruction from the ALYN staff on how they can help their children through the often long and complex rehabilitation process. Patients come to ALYN from all over Israel and from abroad and are rehabilitated at ALYN regardless of their religion, ethnic origin, or language.
The treatment at ALYN is multidisciplinary and includes doctors who are specialists in different fields and a variety of therapies which includes physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy. Throughout their rehabilitation process, every patient and their family is accompanied by nursing staff, social workers, and psychologists.
Children and their families work very hard during their rehabilitation treatments. To increase a child’s motivation so that they make progress in their rehabilitation process, ALYN adds animal assisted therapy, computer technology therapy, virtual reality games, medical clowns, hydrotherapy, and exercising in the Hospital’s Therapeutic Sports Center to the patient’s rehabilitation program.”
Since the hospital doesn’t receive any government funding, fundraisers such as the bike ride are very important to cover expenses for the innovative rehabilitation services the hospital provides.
Levenfeld’s brother, Barry, who lives in Jerusalem, is one of the founders of the ride and participates each year. Through his brother’s talks about the hospital and the ride, Levenfeld understood that it’s a special place that helps many children.
Levenfeld’s son Jacob, 30, participated last year. “I called this our 30/60 Trip,” says Levenfeld, who turned 60 this year.
“The bike ride has grown from nine riders in its first year to over 600 riders who come from 15 different countries. One of the truly inspiring things about the ride is how it brings together individuals from so many different places and walks of life in support of this extraordinary cause,” says Wizman. “What happens on the ride is truly magical. I have rarely encountered any rider who did not regard the ride as a life-transforming experience.”
Other events that help the hospital each year include a marathon, a skydiving event, and an Italian Boutique Ride in which select riders tour the mountains of northern Italy for the cause.
The Wheels of Love Bike Ride is a critical piece of fundraising for the hospital, raising $3 million this year. “One of the reasons the ride is so critical is that it is always more challenging for organizations to raise funds for ongoing operations than for high profile capital projects,” says Wizman. “This is the lifeblood of the hospital, and it is, therefore, no exaggeration to say that the bike ride literally transforms the lives of thousands of remarkable children.”
Each year, the ride alternates between the north and south of Israel. “There are route options for every type of rider: on-road, off-road, competitive, relaxed,” Wizman says. “We even have a route where you can choose to ride for half a day and tour some of the unique natural and historical sites.”
This year, the route took Levenfeld and other participants in the five-day ride to the north, near the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights, as well as the Jordan River Valley.
The Challenges Of An Overseas Ride
Levenfeld had been a runner until he turned 50, but this is the most challenging organized bike event in which he has participated.
Although Levenfeld trained on his own bike in Boston, the ride offered participants the opportunity to rent a bike to avoid overseas shipping of bicycles. Levenfeld took advantage of that, but loaded all his gear, including his bike shoes and other equipment, into his checked baggage. “I arrived, but my baggage never made it,” says Levenfeld. “I had to replace all of my gear and clothes, which was a little challenging.” Unfortunately, to this day, Levenfeld’s luggage has not been recovered.
Wizman states that international participants, such as Levenfeld, are key to the ride’s success. “International riders make up one half of all riders and raise close to two-thirds of the money,” says Wizman. “In addition, by raising money from their peers locally they spread the word about the hospital and turn into unofficial ambassadors for the hospital.”
Levenfeld was amazed when all the riders gathered from the various rides to come together at the hospital at the end. The riders were greeted by the patients and their families, which Levenfeld says was overwhelming. “Each rider received a commemorative medal; the little girl who gave me mine was the smallest person I ever saw on crutches,” says Levenfeld. “She took this medal from around her neck and put it on mine, all while balancing on crutches.”
Levenfeld was overwhelmed by the support of his friends, family, and self-storage colleagues who gave to the cause. “I’m seriously considering riding again next year,” Levenfeld says.
The 2018 Wheels of Love Bike Ride will be held from Oct. 28 to Nov. 1, 2018. The fundraising goal for next year is $3.5 million.
Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is a freelance journalist based in the Ozark Mountains. She is a regular contributor to MiniCo’s publications. Her business articles have also appeared in Entrepreneur, Aol.com, MSN.com, and The Kansas City Star.