By Gabriela Carroll
A group of bicyclists, led by Water Mill resident Kim Covell, are participating in the 100-mile Bike to the Beach ride to raise money for the Flying Point Foundation, a local non-profit organization benefiting those with autism.
Bike to the Beach is a national ride benefiting grassroots autism non-profits. Covell and the Flying Point Foundation have participated in the event since 2016, when Covell, an editor at The Press, was inspired by an article she wrote about getting fit in her 50s.
“One of my goals was to do a 100-mile bike ride, so I decided to sign up and do this,” Covell said. “I created a team, and five or six of my friends came along and did it with me and helped me raise money, and we were pretty darn successful. I think we raised more than $10,000 the first year. So we’ve been doing it ever since.”
Covell founded the Flying Point Foundation for Autism in 2008. The foundation hosts an eight-day camp for children with autism and their neurotypical siblings and peers, in addition to other social and recreational events. It also funds scholarships and grants for special education teachers.
“The foundation was a way at that time to channel my energy and create something positive from what could be perceived as a hitch in life,” Covell said. “When this fundraising opportunity came along, I jumped on it because it brought together two of my passions, one of which is fitness and the other is helping individuals with autism.”
In 2017, Mitti Abbadessa joined the bike team after befriending Covell after the 2016 ride as her son’s Latin teacher. Covell said they bonded immediately due to their shared love for adventure and challenges, and this year Abbadessa became co-captain of the bike team.
This year, Covell and Abbadessa will ride the 100 miles together on a tandem bike, to give themselves a new challenge.
“I got my hands on a tandem bike for my son who has autism, and Mitti and I took it out for a ride one day, and we loved it so much that we’ve just decided to just go and do it for the hundred miles,” Covell said.
“Every time someone sees us coming with a tandem, they think, ‘Oh, they’re gonna be slow,’ because it’s a heavier bike,” Abbadessa said. But then what happened is like you have two bikers with a lot of strength, so we’re faster than everybody. We have to wait for a lot of people to catch up. But we are a team, and we don’t mind.”
The ride starts at the Freedom Tower in New York City, and goes to Southampton. The group usually bikes all together, but Covell said they are considering other options in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep everyone safe.
Team Flying Point has raised almost $25,000 so far, and with a few weeks left until the September 26 ride, Covell hopes they can continue to raise more and more.
“I end up increasing the fundraising goal all the time,” Covell said. “I think last year I raised like $17,000, but I left the initial goal at $10,000 because it makes us feel good when you reach that goal and we can move it.”
Covell, Abbadessa and Team Flying Point are still accepting donations for this year’s ride. For more information or to donate, visit www.fpf4autism.org/bike-to-the-beach.