What began in 2008 as a small charity bike ride amongst mostly family and friends to honor the memory of a Kendall Park woman, has since morphed into a powerhouse event that's helped over 1,000 uninsured women get a free mammogram.
Following the death of his wife Amy in 2007 at the age of 49 after a six-year battle with breast cancer, Kendall Park resident Arie Behar created the Amy Foundation with a mission to help women over the age of 40, who are without health insurance, obtain free screening mammograms.
Since its inception, the foundation has raised over $350,000 and has helped over 1,500 women obtain a mammogram.
"I've had a lot of women email me and tell me how they've benefited from the foundation and how important educating people about early detection is," Behar said. "As exhausting as the foundation is, it's very fulfilling so we keep doing it. We're committed to one goal and as more people have become aware of our existence, the easier it has become to raise money because people know it goes to a good cause."
In 2011, The Amy Foundation worked with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Foundation in New Brunswick to establish “The Amy Fund,” which supports follow-up diagnostic procedures, such as ultrasounds, for women whose mammograms suggest the possibility of breast cancer.
The foundation also maintains partnerships and programs with Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick and the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.
As The Amy Foundation has grown exponentially over the years, Behar said it's difficult to predict what the future holds for the organization as changes to health care could alter the foundation's focus.
"We don't know what's going to happen with affordable health care and we don't know if everyone will have some kind of insurance, but our goal continues to make women aware of the importance of early detection," Behar said. "If there comes a day when early detection is covered, then we'll have to re-think the foundation's priorities. But right now there are plenty of women who don't have insurance and need a mammogram."
For the time being, the foundation will continue to work towards its mission, which also means the return of the sixth annual Bike Ride for Amy on June 2, which originates and ends at South Brunswick High School after passing through parts of Middlesex and Somerset counties.
The ride begins at 8 a.m., with check-in at 7 a.m. It features a 25-mile, 35-mile and 50-mile route. The 25-mile route is a relatively easy ride for all levels of riders, through Plainsboro and South Brunswick.
The 35-mile course offers more of a challenge with hilly terrain. The 50-mile route provides 2,700 feet of climbing, featuring the Sourland Mountain.
Halter's Cycles in South Brunswick is once again offering a 10 percent discount on bicycle tune-ups to all Bike Ride for Amy registrants.
Last year thanks to the ride, the foundation donated $40,000 to Saint Peter's University Hospital, $20,000 to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, and $10,000 to University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. The foundation hopes to match that total this year.
Each rider is asked to raise a minimum of $140, which is the cost of one mammogram for an uninsured woman.
To register for the ride, sponsor a rider or to make a donation, visit the foundation's Stay Classy campaign page: www.stayclassy.org/6thRideForAmy.
Riders who raise $420, the cost of three mammograms, will receive their choice of a Bike Ride for Amy cycling jersey or shorts. Participants who raise at least $840, the cost of six mammograms, will receive both the Bike Ride for Amy cycling jersey and the cycling shorts.
All riders on June 2 will be provided with a water bottle and a Bike Ride for Amy t-shirt. Beverages and snacks will be provided at the start of the ride and at rest stops along each of the three routes.
In the event of rain, a new date will be posted on The Amy Foundation web site at www.amyfoundation.org.
"It's extremely fulfilling," Behar said. "I had a woman walk up to me at our annual Walk for Diane and say 'you don't know me, but my doctor reminded me to have a mammogram and I didn't have the money. So he suggested I go to the Amy Foundation. They did a diagnosis and I had cancer. A year later and I'm finished with chemo, my hair is growing back and I'm walking with you guys.'
"That's the reason I started this foundation. It's a very fulfilling feeling to help save someone's life."