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Bike Ride to end Alzheimer’s goes through New York

Benji Pister, 19, has an ambitious goal to honour his late grandfather’s memory
By: Sammy Hudes
Published: February 23rd, 2012 in News » World
Benji Pister, just outside his intended destination
Benji Pister

For Benji Pister, anything less than going above and beyond to honour the memory of his late grandfather, Paul, just wouldn’t be adequate.

Paul Pister lived with Alzheimer’s disease for the last three years of his life until passing away four years ago. Now, Benji has set a goal for this upcoming August to bike to New York City, one of his grandfather’s favourite cities, from his home in Thornhill, Ont., in support of Alzheimer’s research.

The first-year life sciences student at McMaster University says that his aim is to raise a total of at least $2,000 for the Alzheimer society of Canada, prior to the ride.

Through e-mails and Facebook messages that he has sent to his family and friends over the last couple months, he has been able to amass just over $200, or roughly 10 per cent of his overall objective, thus far.

While the physical challenge of getting in shape to cycle for such a far distance, combined with the task of fundraising may seem daunting task to some, Pister, 19, insists that it is simply a matter of putting in the effort, something that his grandfather never hesitated to do for his family.

“I really loved my Zaidy. He was an amazing person,” Pister recalls.

“He loved every moment that he could have with his grandchildren and he put a lot of effort to make them as happy as he could. Every Jewish holiday, he would give me a Disney movie that I always wanted and that meant a lot to me.

“I think that the effort that he put into his grandchildren is equal to the effort that I want to give back.”

Pister says that his ride of approximately 900 kilometres will take a total of six days, starting early on a Sunday morning and concluding on a Friday afternoon. The exact dates that this will occur in August haven’t yet been chosen.

He anticipates riding 150 to 200 kilometres per day and briefly stopping in the towns that he will pass by along the way, where he plans to raise awareness and funds.

Pister is currently seeking sponsorships from certain well-known corporations to accommodate his overnight stays.

This is not the first charity ride for Pister, who says that he has been a major cycling enthusiast for over two years. Just last June, he participated in the 100-kilometre Zareinu Moveathon and raised nearly $1,000 for children with special needs.

Pister credits this fundraiser as one of the sources of inspiration for his own personal initiative.

“When I started fundraising for Zareinu, I realized that I could make a difference for Alzheimer’s as well,” he says. “If this company can make a difference, then hopefully one day I can make this a huge ride with more than just me, and end Alzheimer’s disease.”

In addition to training for his marathon, Pister has made significant changes to his diet, as he will mainly be sticking to carbohydrates and protein for the next five months.

So far, he has been doing some intense cycling exercises on a stationary bike, in addition to attending weekly spinning classes at the university gym.

“I’m learning to go from a really easy gear to a tough gear while peddling on a stationary bicycle,” he explains. “The instructor tells you how fast you should be going and how many rotations per minute you should be spinning at.”

At first, the training routine was slightly tough, Pister admits.

“The hardest part was getting my heart rate to drop down. When I was getting too intense it would jump up to around 180, which is a little dangerous. It’s getting a little bit easier. I’m training as hard as I am now to make sure that I don’t fail.”

For him, the hope of one day putting an end to Alzheimer’s disease provides the motivation that is necessary to be ready for this upcoming challenge.

“Having to deal with an Alzheimer’s patient is not fun, especially when you go to visit him and sometimes he doesn’t remember who you are or mistakes you for another family member,” Pister says.

“It was really hard on my family and me. You had to take the time to deal with a loved one who was suffering, but he didn’t even know he was suffering. It was really painful and I don’t wish anyone to have a loved one with Alzheimer’s ever.”

Pister notes that his grandfather’s illness was particularly tough on his grandmother, who is also a major motivational person in his life.

Both of his paternal grandparents survived the holocaust, which he says already generated an unwarranted source of suffering in their lives. He says that he feels no one should ever have to suffer in general, but that those who have already been through extended periods of suffering in their lives should especially not have to go through more hardships.

For now, Pister’s main focus is spreading the word regarding his bike ride in order to raise awareness and eventually achieve his fundraising goal. He says that he looks forward to both the literal and figurative journeys that are yet to come.

“I think it will be exciting to tell people the story of my grandfather when fundraising and hopefully people will help make a difference. I’m excited about the ride, but everyday that I get that other donation or I go that much farther on my stationary bike, it motivates me more and more to do this ride.”

If you are interested in making a donation to the Alzheimer Society of Canada in support Benji Pister’s bike ride, please click here. If you would like to contact Benji about his initiative, e-mail pisterbg@gmail.com.

Related articles: Benji Pister, Paul Pister, Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's, Alzheimer Society of Canada, charity, bike ride, Thornhill, New York, McMaster, McMaster University, Zareinu, Zareinu Moveathon
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