An event conceived in a Jerusalem pizza parlor three years ago made its way to Red Hook on Tuesday. Four cyclists who will bike across the country, raising money for children with special needs were given encouraging words, a Jewish Prayer book and American flag from last year’s trip at Investors Bank on 431 Court Street. A Senior Vice President of the bank, Marc Katz, was also presented with an award from Rabbi Bentzion Groner, founder of Friendship Circle International.
The bank is a major sponsor of Bike 4 Friendship, a 3,100 mile bike ride to raise funds for Friendship Circle, an organization that facilitates friendships between teen volunteers and children with special needs. Last year 17-year-old Noam Katz, son of Marc Katz, biked in the annual event and raised $18,000. The event raised $200,000 in total.
Their journey will begin July 6 in San Diego, with local supporters accompanying them for that portion of their trip. The cyclists will make pit stops at some of the 92 Friendship Circle centers in the U.S. for food and accommodations each night on their way to New York, where they’ll arrive seven weeks later.
Friendship Circle International is a humanitarian organization that pairs teenagers and special needs children to provide them with meaningful friendships, something not often discussed in conversations about the children’s lives. “We’re strictly about friendship,” said Rabbi Groner.
Bicyclist Yitzy Smith said that in preparation for the arduous journey he’s been staying hydrated, eating a good diet, and has logged over 300 miles.
“It’s a crazy experience, riding through time zones,” said Noam Katz, adding that the natural elements were what made the ride so difficult. The route crosses the one hundred and ten degree deserts of New Mexico, the swampy Mississippi river and the rough Appalachian mountains. That didn’t deter any of the bicyclists, though.
“I’m super excited,” said said cyclist Nissi Andrusier. He explained that, like many other bikers involved, his main motives in riding on the 85-mile-a-day route were to experience America’s diversity and fund Friendship Circle’s great cause.