Founder of cancer-fighting organization visits campus during bike trip across country
After his father died of a rare form of cancer a few years ago, Tom Peled said he was stuck in a rut.
“I felt I needed to take a personal challenge, physical challenge, mental challenge in order to get out of where I was,” he said. “So for three months, I biked by myself across Europe on a 3,000-mile journey. Every day was a new adventure.”
After that journey, Peled was inspired to create Bike For the Fight, an organization that fundraises for the Israel Cancer Research Fund, a nonprofit that gives grants to Israeli scientists to work on innovative cancer-fighting technology. To further awareness for the New York-based firm, he decided to bike across America with his team.
Over the past three months, Peled has biked 2,300 miles from Los Angeles to Chicago, but before continuing to his final destination in New York, Peled visited Champaign to speak to students about his organization Thursday.
Peled’s team consists of four people: himself; Roey Peleg, fellow biker; Luca Seres, videographer and social-media coordinator; and Eran Rozen, manager. So far, the group has raised $70,000 for the fund. Seres said two of the scientists working for the fund are Nobel Prize winners and have already developed cancer-fighting drugs.
After riding in Chicago early Thursday morning, the group drove to Illini Hillel in Champaign to share its cause with students.
“This morning, we were riding in Chicago on Lakeshore Drive by the huge wheel, and now we are riding with you,” Peleg said. “This is insane.”
The event was sponsored primarily by Israel Illini and Illini 4000. The event began with a ride looping around the Quad several times and was followed by the presentation at the Illini Hillel about Peled’s journey.
“Besides having a fun ride, we want to spread awareness,” said Elaad Applebaum, vice president of Israel Illini and sophomore in LAS. “We thought a bunch of people on bikes going through the middle of the Quad would be a good way to show that. Tom is a great guy, and it’s a great cause.”
Tali Segev, senior in LAS, said she thinks cycling is a unique way to fight cancer.
“Cancer is all about your body shutting down and not being able to trust your body,” she said. “(Biking) is all about pushing your body to the limit.”
Gregory Colten, president of Illini 4000 and senior in Engineering, a biking registered student organization that travels from New York to San Francisco each summer to fundraise for cancer research, said Illini 4000 attended the event to show support for a similar organization.
“We are two groups who hate cancer, and we see a bike ride as a symbolic gesture to encourage people to fight cancer in a way they can,” he said. “We might not be able to do the research ourselves, but we can still find a place to fight cancer.”
Peled said he connected to University students because he is also a college student studying political science at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel.
“The important thing is that we’re not all Jewish, and we’re not all Israeli, but we’re like you — we’re all college students,” he said.
Peleg said that in the future the organization may put a focus on contacting college students. “We are not only fundraising, we are friend-raising,” Peleg said. “We really believe the young people are the future. It doesn’t matter which country you come from, young people communicate on the same level. We can see in each other’s eyes the fire and motivation.”
Peled said in his presentation that following his father’s death, he never thought he would be biking across the country to fundraise for cancer research.