HeroInMe Participant Spotlight: Kayla Koller

Kayla Koller (right) posing with family and friends at the HeroInMe Ride rest stop.

In 2008, Kayla Koller’s older sister, Jenna, died from an opioid overdose. She was 22. Kayla, along with family and close friends, chose to cycle 18 miles at Pedal4Life’s HeroInMe Ride on Sunday, May 2, 2017, to honor Jenna’s life.

Riding in remembrance of her sister, Kayla said it was nice to give some support to those struggling with addiction. “It’s important to recognize that [addiction] is a disease. I think there’s a lot of stereotypes around people who do it, but they’re really just normal, everyday people. It’s a choice to try drugs at first, but [addiction] is a disease.” With a wry smile, Kayla added that Jenna’s birthday would’ve been the Tuesday after the HeroInMe Ride, so participating was a special way for her to remember Jenna’s life.

To learn more about what you can do to support people like Kayla and her family, visit Pedal4Life’s website and please consider donating to its mission. Events like the HeroInMe Ride show people like Kayla – left in the aftermath of grief after losing a loved one to opioid overdose – that they’re not alone and people care about them.


[Blog post and photo by Katelyn Smith, Pedal4Life]


HeroInMe Ride Hits Home with DuPage and Will County Residents

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)