The Sinclair family of Bloomfield Hills are among 900 participants in the 25th annual Wish-a-Mile Biking Tour who are taking the concept of a staycation to exciting lengths in support of a nonprofit organization.
Make-a-Wish Michigan organizes the annual tour, described as a "moving city" taking place this year from Traverse City to Brooklyn, this Thursday through Sunday.
With stops in Big Rapids and Dewitt among other locations in scenic mid-Michigan along the way, the 3-day, 300-mile tour is described by Beth Sinclair, 46, as a memorable way to support a great cause.
"I think that the motorists are missing the simple little things that make life so beautiful around us that we so frequently go racing by and don't ever stop to appreciate," said Sinclair, who has participated for the past 10 consecutive years.
"Dew on corn in the morning sunrise, Amish children smiling and waving, the simple kindness of strangers to cyclists during the tour ... I literally can't imagine my life without these three days in it."
The ride is the largest fundraiser for Make-A-Wish of Michigan, dedicated to granting the "wishes" of more currently more than 450 children with life-threatening medical conditions in Michigan. This year's event could well exceed the goal of $2 million raised to support the nonprofit, according to Sinclair.
It is also essentially the culmination of four months training in the family; including Todd Sinclair, 48; their children, Travis, 20, Lexi, 18, and Bryce, 14; as well as extended family and a foreign exchange student the Sinclairs have hosted.
"We log anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 miles before the ride," Sinclair said. "Every time we ride up an extra big hill or something begins to hurt, we remind each other that there are children who are somewhere in a hospital experiencing much more pain and discomfort than we are."
The most fun, Sinclair explained, is the finale. A 50-mile ride in and around Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, well-known amongst motorsports enthusiasts for hosting NASCAR races, precedes a memorable awards ceremony in which those who have received "wishes" unite with volunteers and organizers.
"It is such an awesome experience to realize the difference you can make not only individually but collectively as a group in other people's lives," said Sinclair, whose team is named 'WAMmer Jammers.'
"It is so powerful to see it and feel it. It really puts life into perspective for my family and I and helps to keep you focused on the important things in life."
Traverse City: 13 wishes granted
Beth and Todd Sinclair checked in at 6:48 p.m. Thursday:
After a rainy beginning and many traffic delays due to construction and accidents on the way to MIS, everyone was checked in and on their way to Traverse City by 10:15 this morning. It took 11 coach busses for riders, 5 semis donated by Meijers Inc to haul bikes, and countless vans for WAM volunteers to get us all up to our first stop, Traverse City East Middle School.
Once we got up to the school everyone got their bikes ready for tomorrow's ride by getting their assigned rider numbers attached to their bicycles, riding their bikes one last time to make sure everything is alright, setting up tents if they were sleeping outside, or filling up air mattresses to sleep in the hallway and gym at the school. Other riders took school busses donated by the local school district and driven by volunteers to their hotels in the Traverse City area.
We spent a couple hours catching up with our Wammer Jammer teammates with whom we share this experience with every year. We have 60 riders this year and our team raised over $100k to fund 13 wishes!
It turned out that the bus driver to our hotel just had a Nephew who was granted a wish to Disney. She thanked us for our fundraising efforts and let us know he had an amazing trip including being a guest host at the Indiana Jones Experience. Fortunately he is in remission after battling bladder cancer for the past 4 years.
Dewitt: Wish granted, next stop, London
Beth Sinclair and Lise Devits checked in at 10:38 p.m. Saturday:
Today the weather was absolutely beautiful. We began our ride just after sunrise riding by fields with the bales of hay that had a layer of fog settled over them. The hills were rolling, and the highlight of the morning was our annual stop at an Amish Farm for the best donuts in the state of Michigan! Each year more and more cyclists and volunteers stop for these heavenly creations, and the adorable Amish children take turns running the fresh batches out straight from the oven.
It is Bryce's 14th birthday today so he rode with a crown on his helmet all day, and everyone at the donut stop sang to him which made him feel really special! All day long people were telling him how impressed they were that he was doing the ride at his age and on his birthday. When we got into the high school in Dewitt, Bryce had a big surprise waiting for him ... a three-foot high candy cake from Sweet Thing in Birmingham! This was a big hit with the cyclists after all of the calories we burned off today.
The highlight of today was the award ceremony. It was one of the best yet. They showed a video montage of 25 years of WAM history. Then there were two wish kids, Micah and Kylie, who were the guest hosts. They were terrific! They had a little girl who was absolutely adorable who is in one of their commercials on TV appear onstage to thank us, and then another wish child took the stage. She looked to be about 10 years old, and her wish had been to publish her own book. She wrote a poem to all of the riders to tell us how much it means to a wish child to have a wish granted. The final total was a stunning and record breaking $2,030,000!!
But the best part of the day was being part of an actual wish to end the day!! Wish child Michelle has bone cancer. She had been saving for several years to go to the London Olympics to watch swimming, but unfortunately she became sick. Make a Wish stepped in and is sending her and her family to the Olympics. They are leaving tomorrow after her dad rides in the WAM 50, but tonight we all lined up with noise makers and red, white, and blue decorations and all 900 riders plus volunteers cheered Michelle and her family to a limo decorated for the occasion!
It was simply spectacular, and that is why we keep coming back year after year to do this ride ... not only because of the difference it makes in a child's life but because of the difference it makes in our lives!
Brooklyn: It's for the kids
Beth Sinclair checked in at 7:36 p.m. Sunday:
Well, another WAM has come and gone! It was our 10th year being involved, and I have to say this year was the best yet. We rode through more of those beautiful, rolling Michigan hills most of the day. At time I felt like we could be part of a Pure Michigan commercial.
It really is amazing how when you actually slow your life down a little and take time to really appreciate all the little things that make life so beautiful how much richer your life seems. When we came home, and my 20 year old son, Travis, and 18 year old daughter, Lexi, came and hugged me and thanked me for making this part of their life, it made me realize that we really do get more out of giving than receiving.
Everyone on the ride wears the WAM 300 jersey on day three whereas the other days are often team jersey days. It is such a powerful unspoken statement that we are really all on one big team working for one common cause.: it's for the kids! :).
The best part of the day was riding into Michigan International Speedway together as a team. Lexi and Lise led the team in a double pace line through the very same entrance that they ran through three years in a row at Cross Country State Finals. Afterwards we talked about how this was the by far the best and most meaningful time they entered onto the track. As we approached the finish line of course a few teammates had a little fun trying to ride up the steep embankment ... one rider even made it all the way up and rode along the top for a short way. Then we began our traditional very exuberant "Wammer Jammer" chant all the way through the finish line while friends, family, and wish kids and their families, and Make a Wish staff cheered us on. It was a totally way cool, awesome experience, and I can't wait to do it again next year!
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