Spring has finally come in Chicagoland and today was a beautiful day for a bike ride for Pedal America’s star and producer, Ira David Levy.
Today, Ira David was in the Naperville area riding the with Performance Bicycle’s social cycling group. May is National Bike Month, so it’s time to get ready. You see, on May 21st Ira David will be riding for those in recovery in Pedal4Life’s first annual Hero in Me ride.
Pedal4Life was created after Ira David was inspired as an honor rider in the Ride to Recovery in Las Vegas. Ride to Recovery is a fund raising ride which is organized by Project Hero supporting veterans and first responders affected by PTSD, TBI and injury recovery.
This is certainly not Ira David’s first foray into fundraising through cycling, however. As an avid cyclist for over 30 years, and a native New Yorker, Ira David created and organized the 9/11 NY Education Ride raising about $75,000 for children who lost parents in the September 11th terrorist attacks. It was just four people over 70 days and 4486 miles.
Pedal4Life confronts several Chicagoland issues for both the young and the well lived including pairing recovering addicts with cycling groups and veterans with recovering addicts. When he rode with Interbike as an honor rider, he asked the president of Ride to Recovery if those on prescription drugs transition to street opioids, he said yes, all the time. However, with the Ride to Recovery program, 61% were able to eliminate substances from their lives.
It’s no secret that Naperville has had it’s battles with heroin addiction and overdoses in recent years. In 2012, Kelly McCutcheon had enough after she saw friends dying of a drug overdose and created a documentary on the drug availability for high schoolers at Neuqua Valley in Naperville, a Chicago suburb.
Vanessa Cai, the Neuqua Valley High School Interact Club president and Confront the Elephant committee member, has been promoting the Hero in Me ride for Pedal4Life in Neuqua Valley. She became interested in joining these clubs as a freshman when a mother of a victim spoke about how her son went through the tragedy of heroin addiction and how it impacted the whole family.
“It was so emotional, such an emotional discussion. I saw a lot of empathy,” Vanessa said, “which is just so beautiful. A lot of people were tearing up hearing her talk about the aftermath. I feel like I’ve grown up pretty sheltered. Substance abuse is not what you think.”
The beneficiaries of the Hero in Me ride are Pathway to Home, the Pedal4Life program, and Banyan Treatment Center, Chicago. Ira David usually bikes on the North side of Chicago where he lives and there is a big biking community, but the really big problem is in the Naperville area. According to the Chicago Tribune, heroin related deaths were up 53% in DuPage County and 42% in Will County in 2016 compared to 2015.
Inspired by the recovery rate of the Project Hero, Pathway to Home will teach cycling if an adult doesn’t know how to ride, they give bikes to those who need them, teach traffic skills and techniques and encourage counseling. Donald Teater, MD, is on the board of Pedal 4 Life. He travels he country speaking at events on the epidemic of over-prescribing. They want to partner with bike clubs and encourage members of Pathway to Home to join bike clubs and find these outlets and support for permanent recovery.
There are so many reasons to ride which only deepened as Ira David produced episodes of the show Pedal America and endured his many long distance road rides. He says there is no substitute for the graciousness of the people you meet on the road, their interest, the culture, the history you take in from the environment. Many ride for fun, but between his causes and his shows, Ira David makes riding a life mission.
“You learn the culture of where you are. There are just so many good people out there,” he says. “It keeps you really present, really in the moment.”
If you would like to meet Ira David, he will be riding with Performance in Naperville every Saturday morning in April.
You can register for the Hero in Me bike ride by going to www.pedal4life.org