WESTFIELD, NJ — When Westfield dad Sid Bakst first heard about Bike Beyond from The Foundation for Diabetes Research in Livingston, he couldn't help but offer his support.

“Diabetes is a disease that is near and dear to us and we are always looking for ways to help,” said Bakst, whose sons, ages 25 and 27, have been living with the disease since they were 3 and age 12, respectively.

The objective of the cross-country cycling challenge is to drive awareness of Type 1 Diabetes and to break stereotypes about the condition by showing the world that anything is possible, even when managing Type 1 Diabetes.

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The Westfield stop kicked off a 10-week cross-country tour Sunday that will take the bikers from New York City to San Francisco.

The 20-person team is made up completely of bikers living with Type 1 Diabetes, along with one parent chaperone, Cheryl Pepper, riding with her 17-year-old daughter Abby, who has the disease. The group will ride 4,296 miles from New York City to San Francisco this summer.

Bakst's initial recommendation was to tap into the Type 1 community in the Westfield area, suggesting that between a few Westfield homes, every biker would have a bed. 

“The team really didn’t want to split up,” said Bakst. “They told me they have sleeping bags and tents.  And I have a decent size backyard. I told them they were more than welcome to make a fun night out of it.”

Cassidy Robinson, Bike Beyond team member and Logistics Coordinator, was happy to take the Bakst family up on their offer.

“We will be staying in a range of different accommodations this summer including private homes, campgrounds, churches, firehouses and even a bunkhouse behind a bike shop,” said Robinson. “The generosity of The Bakst family in Westfield, New Jersey, is being mirrored throughout the country.”

On Sunday, the team embarked on the first leg of their journey and arrived at the Bakst home.  The first crew arrived in a van carrying the team’s insulin and medical supplies, followed by the remaining riders who were greeted with the cheers of local residents and neighbors, many of whom are managing Type 1 Diabetes themselves.

The Baksts relied on local vendors to help pull together the evening with donated food and beverages for the riders and supporters. Supporters included Zappia’s Kitchen, Morano Gelato, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Cosimo’s, Casa di Pizza, Manhattan Bagel, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Anthony James Construction and Print Tech.                   

“Type 1 can be so isolating and we really want to show people that they are not the only ones, so we are doing something bigger,” said Walter Drennan, Bike Beyond team member and program coordinator.  “Everyone is looking out for one another and helping to manage the condition. I’ve already learned so much about how to manage my condition just by being around others who have Type 1 Diabetes.”

When asked if everyone was an experienced rider, Bike Beyond team member and Team Trainer, Melissa Rodgers joked, “No, but after this we will be.”

If you are interested in donating to the Bike Beyond program, visit the team’s website to learn more: http://bikebeyond.org.