For Israelis, trek across America is a deeply personal experience
Equipped with a bike, and a boatload of determination, Tom Peled, an Israeli college student, is on a crusade to cure cancer.
Peled, who founded the grassroots organization Bike for the Fight, is on a 3,000-mile journey from Malibu, Calif., to New York City, raising both awareness and funds for cancer research along the way. He will be in Pittsburgh this weekend at the home of his cousins, Lois and Milton Michaels, 618 Ellsworth Place. The community is invited to hear his story of Bike for the Fight against cancer at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at the Michaels’ home.
The cause is personal to Peled, 25, who watched his father struggle for eight years with a rare and incurable cancer of the abdomen, and finally succumb to the disease in January 2011. Finding it difficult to cope with his emotions after his father’s death, Peled took off on his bike — across Europe.
“I was having a hard time finding a way to channel my grief and emotions,” said Peled, who pedaled his way from Germany to Spain.
“The purpose of that ride was personal,” he said. “But after I finished the ride, it inspired me to do more.”
That inspiration to do more translated into his current trek across the United States that began July 29.
Comparing his efforts to those of Lance Armstrong, who founded the Livestrong organization, Peled is biking to raise money for the Israeli Cancer Research Fund, a New York-based nonprofit organization founded in 1975 that gives grants to top Israeli cancer researchers located in leading scientific institutions across Israel.
The recipients of ICRF funds, which include Nobel Prize winners, have been engaged in groundbreaking research that has resulted in the development of such achievements as early diagnostic devices and new drugs for leukemia, bone marrow cancer and breast and ovarian cancer.
Among the supporters of BFF are EL AL Airlines, Hillel Centers, Maccabiah 2013 and Microsoft Israel. Israeli President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat are among Israeli leaders encouraging Peled’s efforts.
Peled has assembled a team that includes fellow cyclist Roey Peleg, project manager Eran Rozen and documentary filmmaker Luca Seres. The four will conclude their trip Oct. 21 at the Statue of Liberty, having had many fundraising stops along the way. They have already traveled through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Ohio, and have raised about $78,000.
Peled said he is touched by the kindness and generosity of the people he has met throughout his tour.
“The most amazing thing we’ve encountered is the kindness and willingness of people to help,” he said.
“In Nevada, we were in the middle of nowhere, a very small city. We went to the visitor’s center, and a guy at the visitor’s center said, ‘forget about a hotel, come stay at our house.’ People hear about us and are excited. People in the bottom of their hearts are really good and want to be good.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)