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"Ramp to Freedom" for Jimmy Pedraza. After suffering a strong members of Jimmy's cycling club came together and build an amazing ramp allowing him to get in and out of his house. (Photo by Jeremy Smith)
Posted: Monday November 12, 2012, 2:30 PM
By Bergen.com

They call themselves the Tenafly Road Dawgz and they gather on weekends to wheel around Bergen County and beyond. Home base is the Tenafly Bicycle Workshop, a bike store on County Road, where they meet up before pedaling off. Sometimes it's a century ride (100 miles!) but more often it's a 40-mile roundtrip with a stop for refreshments at the Runcible Spoon in Nyack, N.Y.

Two of the crew are the Lazzaros, Kathie and Russ, who bike together on a bright yellow tandem bike, doing the 40 miles every Sunday. "There are so many different people, different careers, different ages, and one basic love: bike riding," says Kathie.

But when one of the group, Jimmy Pedraza, suddenly couldn't make the ride, or any ride for that matter, due to a stroke, the Dawgz decided to come together for a different reason.

"He lives in Hackensack and some of the guys had gone to visit and he was feeling kind of down, because he couldn't get out of his house," says Kathie. That started the collective wheels turning. "In the Dawgz, we have retired engineers, retired construction guys," says Kathie, "so we thought maybe we could build a ramp." The ramp would make outdoors accessible for Jimmy in his wheelchair.

And that is just what they did. In about eight weeks, with a crew of about 15 volunteers, plus donations from a wider group, the ramp became a reality. The Dawgz took care of the permits and the purchases and the labor involved. Retired cyclists worked all week, and volunteers (including Russ, a pharmacist, and Kathie, teacher and director at Cresskill Cooperative Preschool) worked on weekends.

The ramp was completed over the summer, with a "ribbon cutting" in September. It has given Pedraza the freedom to leave the house. "His son tells us the first thing he says in the morning is 'I'm going outside today,'" says Kathie.

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