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The Handle Bar viciously cycles for 50 Legs charity

A representative from Endurance Pilates and Yoga gives out Athleta gift cards to attendees of the “Ride to Benefit 50 Legs” on Saturday afternoon. PHOTO BY BRIGID KING/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
A representative from Endurance Pilates and Yoga gives out Athleta gift cards to attendees of the “Ride to Benefit 50 Legs” on Saturday afternoon. PHOTO BY BRIGID KING/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Twenty bikes filled The Handle Bar Indoor Cycling Studio in Cambridge Saturday to pedal toward raising money for 50 Legs, an organization that provides amputees in need with prosthetic limbs. While pop music played in the background and sweat dripped from riders’ faces, there was a certain similarity that these two organizations shared — positive thinking and perseverance.

50 Legs, one of the first groups to respond to the amputee victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, works to give at least 50 prosthetic legs a year to both single and double amputees.

Julie Erickson, a fundraising planner for 50 Legs and the owner of Endurance Pilates and Yoga, held the event to work toward her total goal of donating $5,000 to 50 Legs. Saturday’s event raised more than $600 to benefit the organization.

While Erickson’s goal may seem steep, her dedication to 50 Legs comes from a place that is very close to home.

“My mother was a single amputee and then a double amputee,” Erickson said. “50 Legs is very important to me since I’ve seen the impact a good prosthetic has on the quality of life.”

After years of working with her mother’s amputations and seeing the problems associated with subpar prosthetics, Erickson started a journey she called “paying it backward.” According to a post she wrote on her blog, Erickson wanted to help people from getting “horrendous prosthetics” and from suffering the way her mother did.

Erickson currently works with about seven amputees, including a 13-year-old boy who lost his leg in a train accident in early 2015. She has also run multiple marathons in support of 50 Legs and plans to continue this tradition next month with a whole team of runners. As the marathon draws near, she is working especially hard to garner support and get more sponsors.

“We do the fundraising through Julie’s Pilates studio, Endurance Pilates and Yoga, in the South End, which does a lot of work with amputees, survivors of different types of cancer and other physical obstacles,” Joscelyn Chapman, Erickson’s fundraising assistant and an apprentice Pilates instructor, wrote in an email.

Erickson explained that this year, she was looking for a different slate to hold the event.

“After looking at multiple cycle studios, The Handle Bar was the most receptive and best to work with it,” Erickson said. “I couldn’t recommend any place more.”

The Handle Bar’s popularity truly played a part in the marketing of the fundraiser and the successful turnout. Erickson and Chapman were able to take advantage of this busy time of year and put people’s stamina toward a great cause.

“This time, right before the marathon, we’ve been always busy,” said Maura Tramontozzi, the studio manager of the Fenway and Harvard Square studio locations. “We’ve been booked up, all three studios, since mid-January up until the marathon.”

Charity rides have always been a part of The Handle Bar’s mission, but this is the first year 50 Legs has joined its growing list of supported charities. Others include the South Boston Neighborhood House, CYCLE Kids and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Marathon Program, among many others.

“Usually people reach out to us,” Tramontozzi said. “If 50 Legs reaches out again, we will be more than happy to support them.”

The new partnership brought forward something equally as valuable as donations — a greater awareness.

“We learned a lot about the situation [of prosthetics] and the cause through this event,” Tramontozzi said. “So, we’re really excited to be a part of something that is so big and means so much to so many people.”

This “situation” is the problem of insurance-supported prosthetics. It’s not a question of providing prosthetics, but instead a reality of providing poor-quality legs to high-intensity problems.

Erickson wrote in a blog post that Steve Chamberland, the founder of 50 Legs, has done great work and “has recognized that people shouldn’t have legs that keep them put.” Chamberland created a way to give amputees the best leg possible.

So while the clink of champagne glasses at end of the ride completed Erickson’s event on a lighter note, her cause represents a wish amid the heaviness of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Prosthetics should be available for all amputees to ensure a greater quality of life. Her event created awareness, raised funds and served as the next step forward in her mission to support amputees.

“It’s not cosmetic, it’s a must,” Erickson said. “These folks used to be active. They need to have a chance to lead the same lives again.”

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