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Couple Bikes in Tandem to Help Find ALS Cure

July 26, 2007 By:
Jared Shelly, JE Feature
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Len and Susan Lodish surrounded by well-wishers after biking from Maine
For many interested in supporting a charitable cause, donating money or volunteering time is more than sufficient. But Len and Susan Lodish decided to add some sweat equity to that equation.

The 60s-something couple rode a two-seater bike from Maine to Philadelphia during a 13-day, 630-mile trek through rain, scorching heat, and a flat tire or two to support the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the ALS Association.

The Wynnewood couple decided to raise cash for the charity after Len's cousin, Jules, was diagnosed with the disease more than 13 years ago. Now 63, Jules Lodish is paralyzed; he breathes with help from a ventilator and communicates by using his lip to move a cursor on a computer.

"Every so often, he sends us a note of encouragement," said Len Lodish, 63, who carried a laptop computer, among other possessions, that were housed in luggage strapped to the bike. "We really admire him a lot."

As the Lodishes pedaled their tandem bicycle along a brick-lined walkway at the University of Pennsylvania on June 18, a group of people cheered them on during their final few yards.

"I'm tired, my hind-end hurts, but I feel a pretty good sense of accomplishment," said a perspiring Len Lodish, a marketing professor at Penn's Wharton School.

The couple biked about 50 miles per day, and raised close to $100,000, according to Len Lodish. If the final tally exceeds that amount, they plan to match it with their own donation.

During the trip, the Lodishes visited laboratories and facilities dedicated to finding a cure for ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

"Every day has been a challenge. We had about four days of rain," said Susan Lodish, 64, a stage director. "But we put our rain jackets on and rode."

The couple -- who belong to Temple Beth Hillel/Beth El in Wynnewood -- have been biking for ALS every year since 1996, when they first traveled cross-country on a two-seater bike. They then tackled the 100-plus degree heat of China, and also completed stages two through seven of the Tour de France.

After completing this year's journey, the couple's combined donation to the ALS Association for their 12 years of bike trips has reached more than $750,000.

Last year, the Lodishes traveled to Israel and rode more than 600 miles, visiting places like Haifa, the Golan Heights, Beersheva and Jerusalem over 12 days.

"We know why they say 'going up to Jerusalem,' " said Susan Lodish, alluding to the hills surrounding the city.

Taking extended journeys also provides them with the opportunity to send notes and pictures to supporters, who pledged donations from all over the world.

"She sits on the back and takes photos instead of pedaling," Len joked about his wife, before admitting that "she's very strong."

Being on a tandem bike allows the Lodishes to take turns doing the hard work of pedaling. One person can work the legs hard, while the other can "rest" by allowing their feet to move around.

During this year's ride, the husband and wife wore matching red, black and white uniforms, and even celebrated their 42nd anniversary by going out to dinner in Rhode Island -- after a full day of biking, of course.


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