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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Good Wheels: Fully-Abled Fun for Disabled Riders!


25 Cheshvan 5771

As promised, here's some follow-up to a feature story I did last year. The action takes place at ISCD, Israel's (PHENOMENAL) Center for the Disabled. It's home to people recovering from acts of terrorism, sport injuries and other matters. Many patients here graduate to mainstream into the rest of society. (Psst: The 2nd rider on the 2-person bike above is a partially sighted woman).

This is a letter that ISCD's super fundraiser Stu Nitzkin recently shared with me:

Good Wheels 2010– Israel
October 17-20th

Do you know how you feel when you finish a 10K run, a Marathon, a triathlon, or actually any athletic goal you set for yourself? It’s that emotional high that you feel by knowing you were successful in achieving your goals. Well, that’s how my husband and I felt last week after completing four amazing days of the Good Wheels Ride that was sponsored by the Israel Sports Center for the Disabled in Ramat Gan. Together with over 400 bike riders, we conquered and converged into the Negev landscape as we road together- able and disabled bodies riders for 400 km .

We were roped into this project five months ago when we had dinner at friends of ours; Ella and Izik Kohn. Ella’s father was a disabled athlete who grew up in Spivak (the Israel Sports Center), and as a young adult with polio he represented Israel in a number of Olympic and Maccabi competitions. Ella suggested we all go on the ride and as good friends we of course agreed it would be fun. Each rider is required to pledge 5000 shekels donation for the event. We had five months before the ride, and I started to train.

On Sunday morning, the 17th of October, we arrived at the ISCD in Ramat Gan at 5:00 a.m., together with another 150 riders – loaded our bikes and ourselves on to buses and rode to Kibbutz Tze’elim in the Negev. There we met another 250 riders who came directly to the Kibbutz. Together we took off, over 400 riders on the first day of the tour.

There were over 100 disabled riders who participated on tandem bikes, hand operated bikes, and various modified bikes to accommodate their specific needs. A large group (130 riders) came from Bank Mizrachi, as well as Bank Hapoalim, Amdox, Radvar, Perdego, Migdal, and many other companies. There were also 50 participants from Etgarim (Challenge), a unique organization that specializes in bringing the physically challenged to the great outdoors.

On the first day, the police closed the roads for us, and we rode on two different route lengths: the long route – 86km and the short route – 50 km. We started and ended at Kibbutz Tze’elim riding thru the Western Negev and its surrounding farmlands. The day was a mixture of socializing with our fellow riders and acclimating ourselves to the hot, dry landscape. All along the route, we were met with cold drinks, fruit stops, and loads of backup support from the organizers of the Good Wheels Ride.

The next day was the longest and hardest day in the tour. We started early in the morning, now only around 100 riders, 25% of them were disabled riders with their guides ready to ride tandem on special bikes for the blind and disabled, or on the hand operated bikes. Today the long route was designed as a 126km route, while the short route, also quite challenging, was 70km long. We rode from Zte’elim to the Gaza Border at the Kerem Shalom crossing, watching the many trucks queuing to cross the border into Gaza with building materials, produce, and many other commercial products.

From there we turned South West down Route 10 parallel to the Egyptian border. The route took us through the varied landscape of the Haluza dunes, Agur dunes, Nitzana, Kadesh Barnea extension, and the Negev Mountain Nature Reserve ending at the second highest mountain in the South. We passed many bored soldiers from both sides of the borders – Israeli and Egyptian, who were surprised to see the long trail of riders passing their outposts. We continued for 95 km, stopping every few hours to refresh and refuel – the temperature was 38 C [Yocheved's note: 38C is well over 105 Farenheit].

At 2:30 pm we started to climb, covering the over 850 meter climb in an hour and a half. Unfortunately, we never made our full goal of 126km to the top of Mt. Harif (in English it means spicy, hot) because the army closes the road at 4:00p.m.; only 8km short of our goal. We were exhausted but exhilarated from the ride.

That night we slept in Har Hanegev Field School. The third day titled: “Crime and punishment”, started with an amazing ride from the highest mountain in the south to the Arava desert. We departed from Mitzpe Ramon toward The Ramon Crater, an erosion crater, the largest of its kind in the world, through the many descents and ascents of the local landscape and ending at Kibbutz Ketora where we jumped head first into their blessed swimming pool. The temperature outside was 43C when we finished our last descent into the Arava. I must admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of riding on Route 40 down and up the mountains – with trucks and buses roaring by, but riding downhill at over 65kmh (Adi was going over 80kmh), it was both a thrilling and frightening ride.

Wednesday was our last day, a relatively easy ride from Mitzpe Rimon to Yerucham, rolling hills and flat routes. Truthfully, we were all so absorbed in remembering the incredible evening we had the night before – here the Sports Center for the Disabled introduced us to the next generation of athletes – the real Heroes of this story. We meet Boaz Kramer, assistant director of the Center; Boaz was born paralyzed in both legs and one arm, having completed medical school, and is the number 14th in the world in Disabled Tennis. Boaz introduced us to Ashel Shabo, 17 years old who lost his leg in a terrorist attack 9 years ago. Ashel also lost his mother, and three siblings in the same attack. Ashel, now a swimmer, is Israel’s future medal hopeful in the 2012 London Para Olympics . The last athlete was 14 year old Caroline Tabib, also born paralyzed from her hips down, number one in Israel in ping pong, and was a delight to hear her enthusiasm and love for the sport and the Center. It was enough to meet these kids and realize that they have achieved goals that many able body people can only dream about. They are the true inspiration for this whole week.

Finally, after almost 400 km, and 4 days, we gathered together in Tel-Aviv, and rode as a group from the Tel Baruch beach through the Hayarkon Park into the Center in Ramat Gan. There we were greeted with shofar blowing, drums, cymbals, and hundreds of family members for a memorable final ceremony with all of the participants.

If I compare the physical efforts of the able body versus the disabled body participants in the Good Wheels 2010, I can truly say: there is no difference between the two groups. We both endured long hot routes, saddle sore rear ends, blazing temperatures, healthy but not gourmet meals, and sparse accommodations. But we laughed a lot, we cried together, and we made lifetime friends with wonderful people. So we are inviting you to join us next year on this adventure. We’ve already signed up again, so please go to the website of the Israel Center for the Disabled at: and read about Good Wheels 2011. Start collecting your pledges already – and hopefully we’ll see you next year.

Best Wishes,
Adi & Hildy Karev

If you want to donate to ISCD and help its patient population to rise above present limitations, see Israel Sport Center For the Disabled.

Contact information in Israel:

Phone: +972-3-5754444
Fax: +972-3-7511649
Mail: 123 Rokach Street, Ramat Gan, Israel, 52535

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