Nearly 600 cyclists rode 180 miles across three states in support of children living with illness as part the tenth annual Bike4Chai, August 14-15. The premier cycling event raises funds for Chai Lifeline, the international children’s health support network which provides emotional, social, and financial assistance to children with life-threatening or lifelong illnesses and their families.
Festivities kicked off Tuesday evening, August 13, in Princeton, NJ, where participants loaded up on carbs and inspiration at a pre-ride Pasta Party. Benny, a former Camp Simcha camper, shared his personal journey through illness and spoke to the riders about the impact Chai Lifeline had on him. “Camp Simcha taught me to stay positive, to keep fighting and to never give up,” he told the crowd, and thanked them “for showing the children of Chai Lifeline that we are not alone.”
The ride commenced early Wednesday morning, as riders journeyed along a clearly-marked century route through the picturesque hills of New Jersey and the Pocono Mountains. Fully-stocked rest stops—complete with food, supplies, and entertainment—provided riders with an opportunity to refresh and recharge along the way. SAG, mechanical, and medical support were available throughout the ride. Day 1 ended at the Kalahari Resort in the Pocono Mountains where riders relaxed and enjoyed a surprise visit from Camp Simcha Special campers.
On Thursday, the ride continued through the scenic mountains of upstate New York. As they crossed The World’s Greatest Finish Line—the entrance to Camp Simcha Special, Chai Lifeline’s overnight camp for children with chronic illnesses and disabilities in Glen Spey, NY—cyclists were greeted by hundreds of ecstatic campers, friends, and family.
Mordy Lebovics, a Chicago resident and 4th-year rider, is captain of Team Symphony, a group local Chicago riders, sponsored by the Symphony Post-Acute Network.
“What attracted me to Bike4Chai was that it was an opportunity to combine my passion for biking and at the same time use that as an opportunity to help others,” said Lebovics. “It’s an amazing cause that goes a long way in assisting the children and families of Chai Lifeline. If you enjoy cycling and having that rewarding satisfaction knowing that you’re helping someone in need, it’s a great way to get involved.”
Ari Galster, also from Chicago, is a 6th year Bike4Chai participant who rode in memory of Nachshon Eckhardt, a 4-year-old boy who recently passed away from medulloblastoma cancer, as well in memory of Leah Pearl, his late mother-in-law.
“Every year I look forward to crossing the ‘World’s Greatest Finish Line,’” shared Galster. “The feeling of you get when reaching the end and dancing with the kids is incredible. A few months ago, I fractured my wrist, and I told the doctor I can’t be in a hard cast, I need to be in Bike4Chai. He was puzzled on why I was so insistent on still doing it, why couldn’t I just take a break. Once I explained more about Chai Lifeline and the tremendous impact it makes for families with cancer and other illnesses, he was more understanding and made for me a moveable cast so I can continue to practice and participate in the ride. I am very grateful that I didn’t have to give up this year and that I have the chance to continue riding in Bike4Chai.”
Bike4Chai benefits Chai Lifeline’s more than two dozen year-round programs and services, including professional case management; counseling; meal delivery to hospitals and homes; transportation to medical appointments; the summer experience of a lifetime for children with cancer and chronic illnesses at Camp Simcha and Camp Simcha Special; Project Chai crisis intervention, trauma and bereavement workshops for families, schools and communities; insurance advocacy; family retreats and respite; i-Shine afterschool national programs for children living with illness or loss in their homes; and more.
“These cyclists are as an inspiration to all of us,” said Rabbi Simcha Scholar, CEO of Chai Lifeline. “With every mile they ride and every dollar they raise, they show our children and families that they care and that they are not alone in their battle against pediatric illness.”