By Andressa Tude
Getting his bicycle over the 25-mile finish line was a joint effort for Lewis Barbanel and his family.
And he was relieved his joints held up for the ride.
Barbanel joined Ride to End ALZ bikeathon in honor of his mother, Alice Barbanel, and to mark the ninth year of her passing.
“It was coming up on my mom’s yahrzeit (the Jewish anniversary of her passing) and I was preparing the Haftorah (the final portion of the Torah read on the Sabbath), and I was thinking I wanted to do something really meaningful this year.”
Barbanel’s bike ride raised more than $9,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, where he was a top 10 fundraiser for the ride. He chose this organization for his first bikeathon because it’s something by which he was deeply affected.
“My mother, she died in 2014, she had dementia,” he said. “I was there with her at the neurologist when we got the diagnosis. Dementia is a terrible way to die. It isn’t the end that’s really the worst. It’s when they know something is wrong – their brain isn’t working and their memories are off. That’s when it hurts the most.”
His mother was not just his mom, but also his friend and inspiration in life.
“Alice Toby Barbanel was kind, generous and loving,” he wrote on his bike ride donation page. He added over the phone: “Watching her lose her mind over those last two-and-a-half years was heartbreaking.”
He said he never heard her gossip about others, she was rarely ever angry despite raising three boys, and inspired him to seek truth and help people. He was especially impressed with her drive when she went back to school after her children were grown to get her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.
Her light and memory kept him going on the steep climbs and valleys of the ride, which took place this past Sunday in Washington D.C.
“It’s a testimony of his love for Grandma Alice to be able to support an organization so involved in researching a cure for Alzheimers and dementia,” Barbanel’s son-in-law/coach/fundraiser social media manager Warren Kaufman said. “I think it’s a great testament to someone who contributed to and brought so much joy to the world.”
It hasn’t been an easy journey.
Though he enjoys running and bicycling, the distance and terrain were challenging for the 57-year-old with bad knees. But his spirit never dimmed.
“He’s super excited and has been doing all different kinds of training, elevation rides, ski machine exercises, research on the terrain,” Kaufman said. “And of course, posting a lot about what this all means to him.”
Now that the bikeathon is over, Barbanel will continue to find ways to honor his mother’s memory and give back.
“I felt it was a worthwhile cause on a national and global level, and a personal one as well,” Barbanel said. “I felt really connected to it. She would be very happy and proud that I’m doing something to help the global community.”