By Michele Justic

The Red Shirts are coming! Many people chose Sunday, September 2 as a nice day for a bike ride. But the hundreds who participated in the first annual Bike4Friendship program had a mission in mind. Wearing the red shirts generously sponsored by several local businesses, they rode from Chabad of the Five Towns in Cedarhurst to the carnival on Long Beach to benefit children with special needs who benefit from the many programs of the Friendship Circle. From Judaica Circle, where children can gain more understanding of holidays and traditions, to social programs, and trips, Friendship Circle has been brightening the lives of Five Towns families for close to 10 years.

According to Friendship Circle Director Batsheva Borenstein who made the event seem seamless, “The inspiration for this event came from Aaron Neufield, our cross-country bicyclist who biked from California to New York this summer to raise funds and awareness for the International Friendship Circle (our umbrella organization).”

Neufield reports about his cross country ride, “My cycling team and I cycled 3,500 miles, climbed over 120,000 feet, and spent a total of 210 hours in our bicycle seats over the course of seven weeks, riding through intense 120 degree heat in the deserts of Arizona, up the Rocky Mountains to an elevation of 10,000 feet in Colorado, through two days of pouring rain in Ohio, and even hitting speeds of close to 60 mph on the downhills of the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania. And we did it all for The Friendship Circle. Every weekend we were privileged to visit a Friendship Circle chapter in the state we were in, and we were able to meet the children, families, and volunteers who are involved with Friendship Circle in their community. We heard firsthand accounts of how much Friendship Circle does for children with special needs and how meaningful our ride was to them, and while our cross-country trek inspired many who met us, we were equally inspired to continue to ride hard on behalf of Friendship Circle because we knew how truly outstanding the organization is.”

Neufield served as a ride leader for the local ride and describes, “We rode a scenic eight-mile route from Cedarhurst to Long Beach, where the ride culminated at a huge carnival/fair complete with a Ferris Wheel and face-painting! I rode alongside a seven-year-old girl named Rosie who told me that before this ride, she’d never biked more than a single mile. But for Bike4Friendship, she pushed herself the whole way, just as my cross-country team did. We all endure so that children with special needs won’t have to. It was great to see families and volunteers alike having such a wonderful time riding bikes and enjoying the carnival together. I am absolutely in awe at the work that Friendship Circle does and so glad to have been part of such a superb event right here in my own community. I’m already looking forward to being a part of the ride again next summer!”

Incredibly, Ms. Borenstein, who has been successfully leading Chabad of the Five Towns’ Friendship Circle for many years, claims she doesn’t even own a bicycle. “But I know Rabbi Wolowik and Rabbi Meir (Chabad of the Five Towns’ director and youth director, respectively) love biking so they jumped right on board with the idea.”

The day had something for everyone. Families, men, and women could all participate but had different start times. A bus took the Friendship Circle children and volunteers from the starting line to the finish line to enjoy the Long Beach Carnival, cosponsored by the BACH shul, where Rabbi Eli and Rebbetzin Beila Goodman greeted the group.

Chabad supporters Avi and Chava Popack, Shlomie and Rivky Hartstein, and Adam and Sarit Kramer helped chair the event. Sarit proudly noted that Adam “is an avid cyclist having just completed Bike4Chai.” Sarit enjoyed the fact that Bike4Friendship “gave the whole family an opportunity to participate, giving our children a chance to have fun while doing a mitzvah with a beautiful carnival that awaits them at the finish line with the beach as the backdrop. Our five-year-old son was determined to ride the eight miles even though we were skeptical if he could complete the full course. Not only did he finish the eight miles in just over an hour but when a friend asked him if he was a winner, Eli responded ‘It’s not about winning, it’s all about doing a mitzvah.’”

The riders felt uplifted by the feedback from spectators and participants. The most surprising aspect of the day was the amount of children who showed up to ride the full eight miles.
Many thanks go to the presenting sponsor, Your Business’ Potential, and corporate sponsors Gourmet Glatt, Central Perk, South Shore Bicycle, The Sukkah Center, and Office Document Systems.


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