The Wall Street Journal reports:
They call it the world’s greatest finish line.
It is the finish line of Bike4Chai, a bike-a-thon fundraiser that benefits New York-based Chai Lifeline, a charity that provides services to seriously ill children, and the organization’s Camp Simcha, a medically supervised overnight camp for children with cancer or other serious illnesses.
The ride, now in its fourth year, begins in Asbury Park, N.J., on Aug. 8 and ends at Camp Simcha in Glen Spey, N.Y., the next day, for a total distance of some 165 miles. The ride ends in a celebration with the campers. It is an emotional moment says Elliot S. Zaks, the creator and organizer of the ride and director of operations for Madison Commercial Real Estate Services of Lakewood, N.J.
“The kids come out to greet you and the counselors put on a show…. It’s the most incredible experience you could have pulling in after such a ride. The whole place is cheering,” says Mr. Zaks.
This year’s ride, with some 200 bicyclists, has already raised more than $1.6 million, which will fund scholarships for children to attend Camp Simcha. Mr. Zaks says that the key to the event is the fundraising total required of all riders: $3,600. Most races, walks and runs have much lower fundraising requirements, he says, but this system with higher requirements inspires a healthy level of competition between riders.
This year, Mr. Zaks has raised roughly $14,000 and, per rider, the average amount raised is more than $8,000. An “astronomical number,” he says.
The idea for the ride began four years ago when a staff member of Camp Simcha set out to ride alone and raise $10,000. The next year, Mr. Zaks and his regular group of riding friends decided to make the ride a fundraiser as a way to set a training goal and step up their riding abilities. Together, that group raised a little over $200,000. From there, the idea picked up steam and the goal has been to double the number of riders annually. Most bicyclists come from the tri-state area, but this year there are riders from Montreal, Miami and Israel.
Mr. Zaks, the father of eight, became involved with Chai Lifeline a few years ago as a volunteer. What’s unique about Camp Simcha, and why he says people are passionate about the ride, is that the camp is a real camp just disguised as a hospital. Children can receive chemotherapy at camp, one-on-one counseling, swim and take helicopter rides. “Like living a fantasy life,” he says.
As the ride has grown, it’s taken over Mr. Zaks’s summers and he gets up before his kids to train by riding 20 or so miles in the morning. “Every summer I felt I wanted to do something. Some people have a goal of reading 10 books and so on,” he says. “I’ve had a goal to pick a summer and do something different.”
Source: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL