This story has been updated to reflect that Laurie Sabin of Bloomfield Township started participating in the Wish-A-Mile Bicycle Tour two years ago.
More than 26 years ago, Al Peterson hopped on his bike and it seems like he has never gotten off.
Some 8,000 miles later, he is still riding, but with a purpose and the friends he met along the way.
Peterson, 78, is preparing to ride 300 miles this weekend in the 28th annual Wish-A-Mile Bicycle Tour to raise money for Make-A-Wish Michigan. The event is expected to draw more than 1,000 riders and other volunteers.
What started out for the Livonia resident as a weekend recreational bike ride with 15 people, has multiplied to more than 800 people on bikes this year.
“I got involved to try and promote the event and raise money. After that I have been hooked ever since,” said Peterson, who hasn’t missed a year since he started riding. He bikes with a team called “David’s Heroes,” whose namesake died 25 years ago, but said his participation is to support the foundation more than one person.
“This really is one of the best and most positive organizations. So many children benefit.”
The three-day event begins in Traverse City and ends at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. There also is a one day, 50-mile route Sunday and children can participate in the WAM Jr., a half-mile stretch on the speedway.
Two years ago, Laurie Sabin of Bloomfield Hills Township got involved with WAM Jr., after her children were a part of a bar mitzvah project to help raise money for the organization. This year, Team Sabin hopes to reach its goal of $6,000.
“Throughout the year, we work really hard and try to stay in shape for this race,” said Sabin, whose family is participating in the 50-mile ride. “To be able to share in this experience and connect with everyone makes it all worth it in the end.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical illnesses.
Registration for WAM 300 is closed, but participants can still sign up for the 50-mile ride or the WAM Jr.
To participate, each team is required to raise at least $900. The foundation’s goal is to raise more than the $2 million raised last year, making WAM the largest outdoor Make-A-Wish event in the country. While the bike ride raises the most money for the foundation, its annual walk at the Detroit Zoo attracts the largest number of participants.
Jason Foreman and his nephew Joshua rode a tandem bike last year. Joshua, who suffered from two brain tumors causing him to lose vision in both eyes, was granted a wish two years ago, when he met NFL quarterback Drew Brees.
“He wanted to do something special for Make-A-Wish while helping to raise money, so this is what we came up with. So far, with the help of Grede Holdings, we have been able to raise close to $8,000,” said Foreman, who will be riding with his three brothers. Grede is an automotive parts company in Southfield where Foreman works.
Joshua was unable to ride this year. “What they were able do for him, we could have never done,” Foreman said.
Peterson has no plans to slow down, but there were times when he didn’t think he could finish.
“The last mile of the race, everyone is required to remain silent. It’s called the silent mile,” Peterson explained, where pictures of children who have died are set up along the trail.
“Looking at everyone’s photos as you pass and remembering all the children’s faces and the fight that they had, I knew I would be able to keep pedaling.”
For more information
■(800) 622-WISH (9474)