Adina Elbaz sat on the seat of her tandem bike, readying herself for a final training session in Tel Aviv’s Etgarim Bicycle Center.
It was nearly a week before Wheels of Love Ride, the annual fundraiser for the Alyn Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Jerusalem.
Elbaz adjusted her hair underneath her helmet as Ruth Vitztum, her physical therapist, helped her prepare for the ride around the center.
She is one of 10 members of “The Brave and the Fast,” a group of Alyn patients who underwent significant rehabilitation at Alyn Hospital, and will be participating in this year’s ride.
“Thank God I am where I am today,” said Elbaz. “I shouldn’t take anything for granted; Alyn helped me a lot.”
Elbaz still can’t quite believe that she’s participating in this year’s ride.
Two years ago, she was hit by a car on her way to school. The 18-year-old spent 18 months in Alyn to recover from her traumatic brain injury.
When Elbaz first arrived at the hospital, she didn’t think she would be able to ride a bike again, but said she received lots of encouragement from Vitztum.
“Ruth, my physical therapist, encouraged me from the beginning, with ‘I’m telling you, one day you’re going to ride a bike,’” Elbaz said.
Elbaz, then in a wheelchair, spent months in intensive therapy before she was ready to consider doing so. She’ll be biking 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) on day five of the ride with Rocky Brody, an experienced Wheels of Love rider and volunteer who has been training with Elbaz for the last three months.
The 15th annual ride in Israel’s Arava desert began Sunday and ends Thursday with a festive ceremony at Alyn Hospital.
Participants can choose from six routes for the five-day ride, each catered to a variety of needs and skills, from paved roads to trails with rocky climbs.
In addition to “The Brave and the Fast” group, there are 700 other participants in the ride — from Israel, the US, Canada, Australia, Holland, the UK and France.
The fundraiser has raised $1.8 million so far this year, according to spokesperson Omri Benhanan, and is well on its way to reaching the 2014 goal of $2.75 million.