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North Woodmere man's weight loss prompts U.S. charity bike ride
In high school, Aaron D. Neufeld weighed almost 200 pounds. By the end of his senior year at Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway in Lawrence in 2008, he lost 60 pounds by dedicating most of his time to biking for three months.
The experience was one of the reasons he signed up for the second annual Bike 4 Friendship. The cross-country bicycle ride raises money for Friendship Circle International, a Jewish organization founded in 1994 in Detroit that pairs teen volunteers and children with special needs to foster friendships.
“For me, to be able to do this, being big for most of my life, it’s pretty cool,” said Neufeld, 21, of North Woodmere. “It’s nice to inspire other people, too.”
Last year, three college students who studied at Rabbinical College of America in New Jersey came up with the idea to bike across the country and raised $2,000 for the organization.
This year, Neufeld has raised $1,830, but must raise at least $5,000 before starting his almost 3,300-mile trek on July 1 from Los Angeles.
“It was on my bucket list anyway, and it’s probably the only time I’ll have seven weeks off to do something like this,” Neufeld said of biking across the country. He graduated Friday from Stony Brook University with a cinema and culture studies degree and media arts minor.
So far, riders have collectively raised almost $17,000 for this year’s ride, with an end goal of $100,000.
Mendel Groner, a representative from Friendship Circle, says only the most serious of riders can take this trip, and Neufeld is one of them.
“This is something he really wants to do,” said Groner, 24, of Brooklyn. “With fundraising, he got a good head start; he’s really making a lot of noise in Woodmere.”
With a goal to reach New York by August 17, Neufeld will bike alongside nine others from other states and countries. Those not biking the entire way are riding shorter segments along the route by raising anywhere from $500 to $1,800. Bikers will ride an average of 85 miles a day, over the course of eight hours.
Neufeld’s friend Gavri Adler, who volunteers for Friendship Circle, told him about the trip.
“In 20 years, when he’s not as active, he can say, ‘I biked the country,’" said Adler, 16, of Woodmere. “Not many people can say that.”
Although Adler’s schedule didn’t allow him enough time to train and sign up for the ride, he still rallies behind his friend, biking with him at least once a week, up to 60 miles at a time.
“If he sets his mind to it, he’ll do it,” Adler said. “Look at anything in his life. He looked himself in the mirror and didn’t like what he saw, so he dropped 60 pounds. Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I would be able to do that.”
Find out more about helping Neufeld reach his goal here.