By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
A team of bicyclists who have been riding together for a number of years in Make-A-Wish Michigan’s Wish-A-Mile bicycle tour are riding remotely this year.
They join more than 900 cyclists helping grant wishes for Michigan kids during the 33rd annual Wish-A-Mile (WAM) this summer. Traditionally, WAM would take place the last weekend in July, as riders bike 50 or 300 miles to raise funds to help grant wishes to Michigan kids with critical illnesses.
Due to COVID-19, this year’s WAM is now a virtual event so cyclists can log miles and fundraise through Aug. 16. Whether someone rides their Peloton daily or bikes out on the road, they can participate in this year’s virtual WAM. There is no registration fee, no mileage requirement and no fundraising minimum.
Make-A-Wish Michigan continues to grant life-changing wishes to Michigan children this summer. Funds raised by WAM riders are vital to the organization’s ability to make wishes come true.
Oxford resident Joel McCormick is captain of Team Jenna, a group of about 15 riders from Oxford, Orion and metro Detroit. He started in 2013 to see if he could meet the challenge of riding three 100 mile “century rides” in three days. A century ride is a benchmark for cyclists, like a marathon for runners.
It soon became about more than just the athletic challenge. “All it takes is meeting some of these kids along the way and you realize there’s a lot more to it than just the ride, it truly is about the kids,” McCormick said.
“When you look at it, you realize there is a huge impact to not only a child, but families that have an opportunity as they’re going through probably the most challenging time in their life, for some sense of normalcy. And that’s what this is all about. You give kids an opportunity to experience things they may not get a chance to experience in their life. You give kids that are going through a heck of a lot more pain than what a rider goes through sitting on a bike seat for a hundred miles, an opportunity to experience something that means all the world to them.
“The financial fundraising side of this is probably as challenging as the ride itself because each rider makes a commitment of a minimum of $1,500 to be able to participate. Most riders end up raising more than that.”
A former rider turned volunteer, Chris Ophus has been involved with WAM since 2000. Last year he raised $2,400 from local companies and organizations. “As a volunteer, I don’t have to raise any money,” Ophus said. “But I do every year. I try to raise the same amount as the riders, or more.”
In normal years, he takes time off work with his wife, Pam, to volunteer as part of the road crew. They take a van to help mark the route from Traverse City to the Eaton Proving Grounds in Marshall. They were going to do it again this year, but since everything has gone virtual, there was nothing for them to do.
“We’re hoping that the Covid thing gets cleared up and we’re hoping next year we can participate. We’d love to do what we can for riding or for volunteering.”
Those involved in WAM call themselves WAMers. “No matter what, we’re like a family and we watch out for each other.”
This year, he hopes the riders “finish the ride at their pace and have a good time and enjoy themselves.”
For McCormick, instead of riding 300 miles over a single weekend, he’s taking his time, riding outdoors three or four times a week. You might see him out on roads.
“I’ve ridden over a couple thousand miles already this summer,” he said. He’s an avid rider for whom “a short ride is 20 miles and a long ride is 70 miles.”
This year, he has raised $650 so far. “I’m fortunate that the team that I ride with, all the riders have the same passion and commitment to not only do the ride, but it’s about being able to provide financial support for families that need it in a traumatic time.”
Folks can donate at WishAMile.org.
Since 1984, Make-A-Wish Michigan has granted more than 10,000 wishes to Michigan children with critical illnesses. Based in Brighton, with an office in Grand Rapids, Make-A-Wish Michigan is funded through community support. Visit www.michigan.wish.org to learn more.
By James Hanlon