Cycling Out Cancer
Washington Jewish Week (subscription required)
While most of greater Washington's Jewish community was either getting ready Sunday afternoon for the onset of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah or they were watching the Redskins, a small group of Israelis was pedaling on a mission through town.
Called Bike for the Fight, the group, led by Tom Peled, was raising money for cancer research In Israel and awareness of the need for more dollars dedicated toward a cure for all cancers.
Peled, 25, and his companions started riding from Malibu, California, in late July and made it to D.C. on Sunday, where they met a room of supporters and contributors at the DCJCC.
Peled organized the ride in memory of his late father, Ramy, who bravely fought but lost his battle with a rare form of stomach cancer. Ramy, an IDF veteran of 25 years, passed away, leaving his son devastated.
Bike for the Fight has a host of sponsors, including the Israel Embassy, El Al Airlines and Microsoft.
All of the support happened because Peled needed to find a constructive way to channel his grief following his father's death. He actually pedaled from Berlin to the coast of Spain before his U.S. journey. His American trip will end late this week when he crosses the George Washington Bridge in New York and then takes a ferry boat to the Statue of Liberty. He and his friends will decide once back in Israel what the next stage of their work will be.
Making the cross-country trip through 13 states with him were friends Roey Peleg, 27; Eren Rozen, 25 and Luca Seres, 24. All are university students in Israel.
During their trip across America, the group spoke at events or met informally with Americans they'd met on the road. Peled told the story of how a young Hispanic man in the Midwest approached the group and asked them what they were doing. Peled said the man spoke little English, but understood enough to be moved to donate $20 on the spot.
"We did this to inspire, to give hope that it's possible to take a negative and turn it into a positive," said Peled. "We had an opportunity to do good in the world."
He said that he knew that his dad was suffering with so much pain during his cancer treatments.
"He always kept smiling," said Peled. "He remained always optimistic, and he gave us the belief that he'd beat it. When he passed away, after battling cancer for eight years, I was devastated. I was in a depression. Nothing was working for me."
To get up and move forward, he decided to ride on a three-month bike journey through six European countries. It was during that journey, that he came up with the idea to raise funds for cancer research. He did so without any experience in fundraising. He just started calling organizations.
"This was my first time in the U.S.," he said. "I've seen enough corn to last the rest of my life."
The trip has so far raised over $80,000.
On Wednesday, the group was scheduled to meet with George Washington University Hillel students and then bike to the National Mall with GW's cycling team.
Peled also noted the special time of the year in his presentation.
"It is Sukkot and Simchat Torah, which are celebrated by all Jews," he said. "We come together during these holidays, and we come together against cancer. Cancer doesn't care if one is Orthodox or Reform, Democrat or Republican."