The gift of wheels

A Laguna Beach resident plans to screen a charity's documentary during a fundraiser at Laguna Beach Cyclery aimed at donating bicycles to people in developing countries.

George Vitolo, a resident of Laguna Beach, will screen "Wheels 4 Life: The Film" by world-famous cyclist Hans Rey on June 18.

To Vitolo, a bike is much more than a form of transportation. At one point, when he was homeless, it was one of his only possessions.

After seeing a screening of Rey's documentary about his charity Wheels4Life at South Coast Cinema in December, he was moved to do something.

"When I went to the screening it kind of touched me," Vitolo, 45, said. "I've had times when I was virtually homeless, but I've always had my bikes — my road bike and my mountain bike. They've always been my saviors."

He had no idea the difference a bike could make for a person who has a 20 mile trek to school, work or a hospital.

"It's amazing that a bike can do that," he said. "We just walk in a bathroom and turn on a faucet. They have to walk to a watering hole."

He was inspired by the charity and decided to do a 24-hour bike ride in its honor.

The 24 Hours of Adrenalin take place in September, and he plans to raise funds as it gets close to the event, as well as raise awareness during his ride.

Carmen Rey, wife of Hans Rey and co-founder of Wheels4Life, was pleased to hear of Vitolo's efforts.

"It means a tremendous amount to us when people like George Vitolo and Laguna Beach Cyclery feel inspired enough by what we do to go ahead and hold their own fundraiser," she said in an e-mail. "Another wonderful thing about what George is doing is that he is enrolling his community to help another entire community."

Wheels4Life truly changes the lives of the most remote, impoverished areas in the world, Rey said, and they could not be successful without people like Vitolo lending a hand to the cause.

"It's always made a difference in my life," Vitolo said. "I'm not the only person that a bicycle can change a life for."

It costs about $150 to donate a bike. Vitolo is hoping to raise funds throughout the race by getting sponsors for each lap.

It would be nice to get $10 for each lap, he said, and even better if he could get $100, which would amount to many more bikes.

When Vitolo isn't running his ambulance company or enjoying his 7-month old daughter and fiancée, he's training, getting ready for a ride that will resonate in places his tires haven't touched.

For more information about Wheels4Life, visit

If You Go

What: Wheels4Life screening and fundraiser, hosted by George Vitolo

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Laguna Beach Cyclery at 240 Thalia St.

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