Cycling For Wishes
Sore muscles and months of training are a small price
to make sick kids' dreams come true.
SHELLI LIEBMAN DORFMAN
hree long days on a bicycle
was plenty of time to allow
participants of the Wish-A-
Mile 300 Bicycle Tour to
reflect on their own lives and remember
why they chose to ride.
While Rick Nessel of Novi said riding
in the July 25-27 Make-A-Wish
Foundation of Michigan fund-raiser was
"extremely exciting and challenging,"
the bottom line was "raising money for
the wonderful charity that grants the
wishes of children with life-threatening
While riders in the UAW-GM-spon-
sored event are required to bring in
pledges of $500, Nessel's 12-member
Team WAMmer Jammers raised
$23,000. The team's name originates
from the acronym for Wish-A-Mile.
Part of the $10,000 personally raised by
Nessel, an advertising account executive
at the Jewish News, came from his co-
workers and employer.
Nessel's team rode alongside more
than 400 riders — ranging in age from
14 to 70 — in the 16th annual fund-
raiser that brought in a total of
$540,000. With the cost of each wish
averaging $6,500, the amount will allow
about 83 wishes to be granted.
During breaks in the Cheboygan-to-
Milford ride, cyclists were able to meet
some of the kids who had wishes ful-
filled and hear their stories. "Their faces
would just light up as they spoke of the
good times they had, and they couldn't
wait to show me pictures," Nessel said.
"When I saw the 'wish kids,' all I
could think of was how lucky I am to
have three healthy kids. The least I
could do was help give back to the com-
munity by raising dollars for this cause."
Several now-healthy wish recipients
also rode or volunteered during the ride.
"The next time you see a kid with can-
cer, or even someone who looks a little
different, give them a smile. We could
"She taught us many very important
lessons about life, attitude, determina-
tion and the value of a smile," said Team
Alex rider Beth Brandvain of
Farmington Hills. "Her youthful wis-
dom continues to guide us. Alex's wish
for us to do good deeds and to partici-
pate in acts of loving-kindness has truly
enriched our lives."
The team's $56,000 contribution put
them in first place as fund-raisers; for
the fourth time. In addition providing
funding for wishes, the team strives to
be the top fund-raiser so they can bring
home a traveling trophy to Alex's par-
ents, Susie and Bill Graham of West
Bloomfield, to keep for the year.
Riding with the team since they
formed shortly after Graham's death in
1999, Brandvain encountered an unex-
pected connection between Team Alex
and another team.
"When I congratulated Compuware
rider and team captain Denise
Knoblock on her fabulous effort, she
told me something that I never expect-
ed," Brandvain said. "She told me that it
was Alex's (public service) message that
inspired her to join the ride."
While the ride may have been diffi-
cult and grueling at times, Brandvain
said Team Alex members persevered "to
keep a, promise to Alex to do good deeds
with smiles on our faces."
For Brandvain's teammate Mike
Surnow of West Bloomfield, the worst
part of the ride was not "the unrelenting
wind on Day One or the rain on Day
Two. It was the ride home on Sunday
after it was all over," he said.
"I found it depressing that this fantas-
tic weekend had ended. I wanted more.
And to me — that longing is the spirit
of Alex that glows in my heart." LI
Rick Nessel of Novi, secon dfrom the right, with Team WAMmer Jammers
Team Alex husband-and-wife tandem riders Avi and Beth Brandvain of
Farmington Hills take a break during the 300-mile ride.
Keep On Riding
. Represented for the fifth time, 22 mem-
bers of Team Alex rode to honor the life
and memory of Alex Graham, a Make-
A-Wish recipient, who died of cancer,
four-and-a-half years ago, at age 17.
Alex's wish allowed her to make a
public service announcement urging,
Donations to the Make-A-Wish
Foundation of Michigan may be
mailed to 3390 Pine Tree, Suite
20, Lansing, MI 48911-4212; by
phone at (800) 622-9474; or
online at wwvv.vvish.org