Published July 24, 2013
Man leaves comfort zone to bike 300 miles for Make-A-Wish Foundation
By Joshua Gordon firstname.lastname@example.org
HUNTINGTON WOODS — Ron Elkus doesn’t consider himself a very athletic man. The 53-year-old Huntington Woods resident said he was always last to be picked in dodge ball growing up, and he played right field in T-ball, where balls never came.
But, as he approached 50, Elkus decided to make a change and start riding a bicycle. What started as a leisure activity has catapulted into multiple 50-mile bike rides as part of a Make-A-Wish Foundation Michigan fundraiser.
This year, Elkus will try to stretch his athletic threshold even farther as he rides in the 26th annual Wish-A-Mile Bicycle Tour. The 300-mile ride takes place July 26-28 and starts in Traverse City, going through Big Rapids and Lansing before ending at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Elkus admits that 100 miles a day for three straight days is intimidating, but it is something he has trained for and feels confident in completing.
“I’m not used to big bike rides at all, so this is a huge commitment,” Elkus said. “Oftentimes, I work full time and I train full time, and I’m not sure how I do it all together. To do 100 miles in a day is a lot, and I’ve been able to do one 100-mile ride so far, but it took me from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.”
Elkus will ride with Team Alex, a fundraising team riding in memory of Alex Graham, a 17-year-old girl who passed away from bone cancer in 1999. Elkus said his brother, Steve, who has ridden in the Wish-A-Mile 300-mile ride for several years, brought him onto the team.
Training for the ride has been about setting personal goals for each ride, Elkus said, and making sure to keep himself entertained during rides.
“The training is all about building up and going to places that are beautiful, like a lake,” he said. “I would start with a half-hour ride, then a hour, then three hours of riding as you build up and train. Basically, I am riding five days a week at a minimum now and at least an hour a day.”
Steve, 56, of Royal Oak, said that when his brother first decided to do the bike ride, he was excited to see Ron work toward the goal. This year will be Steve’s seventh time completing the 300-mile ride.
“I was gung-ho about it and thought it was great, although there were a lot of naysayers, but I just told (Ron) if you put the time into it, my belief is you can do it,” Steve said. “He has put his heart and soul into it and has been out there training, and I’ve been pretty impressed. He usually calls me after rides, and when he did his first century, I was very proud because, to most people, they say they could never do that. It was pretty impressive for him to do that.”
While the physical goal is inspiration enough for Ron to complete what he has started, the real inspiration comes from helping the kids who benefit from the fundraising event. As of last week, Team Alex had raised almost $250,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation with Ron having raised $4,000 of his $5,000 goal.
Last year, Team Alex helped send Sophie Blumberg and her family on a cruise with the money raised, and Ron was able to meet Sophie at the finish line of the 50-mile ride. Sophie, unfortunately, got sick during the cruise and had to leave early, so she will again be the kid whom Ron is riding for this year to try and send her to Disney World.
“I think what happens is you think about yourself at the beginning with the training and all that, but then it becomes about the kid,” Ron said. “It becomes about how lucky we are to be riding, and these kids do not have that opportunity or the time because they are sick a lot. The more money we raise, the more kids that can take advantage of their wishes of trips or meeting sports stars.”
The ride also brings about some self-awareness too, Ron said. From what he is able to do physically, to appreciating what he has in life, he said being part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation is a life-changing experience.
“I am very lucky, physically and emotionally, to have been able to work and be able-bodied; I’m just blessed,” he said. “Sometimes you go through life and you don’t realize how fortunate we are and lucky we are until we see how others live and what they endure and the difficulties or challenges they have. There is a sense of appreciation and to be honest with myself and to appreciate life so much more.”
For more on the Wish-A-Mile Bicycle Tour, Team Alex or Ron Elkus’ ride, visit wam.kintera.org.