Pedal4Life President, Ira David Levy, addresses riders during the opening ceremony of the HeroInMe Ride, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Naperville, Ill.
Pedal4Life hosted its first large-scale fundraising event, HeroInMe Ride, Sunday, May 21st in Naperville, Ill. Bicyclists pedaled well-marked 18, 32 or 48-mile routes to support and raise awareness for those who are either struggling with addiction, in recovery, or who have died from opioid overdose or other substance use disorders (SUD). Local teacher and participant Margaret Stokes said, “I had a student die of an overdose. It was years ago, but it kind of stays with you.”
Officer Vince Clark of the Naperville Police Department was one of two policemen providing an escort to the cohort of 60 bikers. He said, “Naperville is an area with money, and [opioid use] is still a huge problem. It has no borders – it affects us, too.”
The HeroInMe Ride is just one of several events that Pedal4Life will host this year in an effort to fund its Pathway2Home program that will offer recovering addicts in treatment centers access to free bicycles, helmets, knowledge about the benefits of biking, and an opportunity to join a community of other riders.
Suzette Papadakis, Executive Clinical Director at Banyan Treatment Center, said, “Learning a healthy hobby helps reduce anxiety, increases [patients’] health, as well as provides reliable transportation for them.” She added that raising awareness is always important, and that Banyon Treatment Center – the beneficiary of the HeroInMe Ride – is especially excited about Pedal4Life bringing its program to their patients and having them directly benefit from it. “Recovery doesn’t suck,” she added, “it can be wonderful. A lot of our patients love to exercise and bike, but don’t have the ability to do that anymore because of the lack of funds or whatever the situation may be.”
The HeroInMe Ride was generously sponsored by several local establishments, including Performance Bicycle, Banyan Treatment Center, Penske, TGI Friday’s, Massage Envy, First Student, Chicago Marriott Naperville, The Home Depot, Catalano, Caboor & Co. and Schiele Printers Group. “This is a good chance to give back to the community and be part of a cool event,” said Justin Marone, store manager of Performance Bicycle: “The community is connecting with it…the opioid addiction issue is a huge issue in our area, especially with teenagers.”
With the help from the HeroInMe Ride and the support of the Naperville Mayor’s office, positive steps are being taken to combat this epidemic. Councilwoman Becky Anderson addressed the riders at Sunday’s event to express how important it is for her office, and everyone, to be doing whatever he or she can to support those with the disease of addiction: “We’ve seen too many deaths in our city and in our county.”
Anderson supports incorporating exercise into the recovery process, explaining, “The confidence [biking] can build in someone and the comradery you can get from the people you’re surrounded with is absolutely brilliant. Those endorphins you’re building in your body while biking, and taking pride [in what you’re doing] can really turn somebody around and help them in recovery.” She also urged all participants and volunteers to “please turn in those unused prescription drugs, no matter what they are, to the local fire department for safe disposal.”
As bikers returned from their routes, they were greeted with the aroma of a healthful lunch donated by TGI Friday’s and the upbeat tunes of the local band, “The Fource.” Overall, the event was a big pedal forward in aiding recovering addicts to reap the bountiful benefits of cycling.
(Blog post and photos and by Katelyn Smith, Pedal4Life)