Tom Peled, like any 24-year-old Israeli, has completed his compulsory military service, travelled, and is now immersed in end-of-year exams at IDC Herzliya
. All sounds pretty normal to any Israeli. Tom, however, has plans this summer beyond getting a job to pay for next year’s college fees.
Following his father’s death, Tom learned that sitting around and waiting for things to happen gets you nowhere. After an 8 year battle against a rare form of stomach cancer known as pseudomyxoma peritonei, Rami Peled, aged 58, passed away in January 2011.
Later that year, Tom focused his grief into a 3000 mile, 3 month bike trip around Europe. After his European tour, he formed an international cycling charity, Bike for the Fight (BFF)
to raise awareness and financial support for the Israel Cancer Research Fund
This year, Tom’s ride is in a different location with another purpose – to raise money and awareness in support of cancer research. He also hopes that the events and challenges arranged by BFF
will bring strength and inspiration to other families coping with cancer and to those who have lost loved ones through the disease.
I spoke to Tom about BFF and his summer plans.
Where will the ride begin and who will be joining you?
We’ll start off in Malibu, California on 1 August. Besides the enormous support and help we have had from numerous people, there will be 4 of us.
Eran Rozen, 24, will be driving, Roey Peleg, 27, a medic and professional athlete will ride with me, and film student Luca Seres 23 will be with us making a documentary about the trip.
Who is supporting the bike trip?
Microsoft Israel have been amazing. We won a Microsoft App competition, so for the prize they built us an App for our Facebook page.
The application is active but Microsoft are still developing and improving it for us. It’s a wonderful boost, and let’s say also donation to the cause because they have gone beyond the prize for our event. It’s the main way people can donate; eventually it will have maps, be completely interactive and followers will be able to track us on a daily basis and see where we are and what we’re up to.
I met with our President, Shimon Peres which of course is a great honour.
So, many people are working behind the scenes trying to get things up and running and promoting the events; I wrote a blog for Abbanibi.com for example, we’ve appeared in Israel21C and more.
How have you planned the trip?
We hope to ride 60 miles a day. I’ve split the trip mentally into before Chicago and after Chicago. Before Chicago we’ll be probably be doing a lot of camping. We’ll have some hard terrain and weather to deal with in the first few weeks, so we may cycle during the night and early mornings and take a break during the day.
We really want to stop in small towns; hopefully interact with local people, meet any Jewish communities, and go to summer camps, major sporting events and find interesting stories about people’s lives and events as we go along.
The Maccabi World Union sporting organisation is helping out with arranging events along the way. I hope by making as many people aware of my personal story, I will encourage others to take interest in my cause and if they can donate money or join in and ride with us that’ll just be great.
I hear you’ll be taking a detour for a couple of days and visit Toronto during the tour
Yes, when we reach Chicago, we’ll fly to Toronto for a couple of days for an event hosted by the Toronto chapter of the ICRF.
How much do you hope to raise?
We don’t have a set figure but after looking at other fund raising events on this scale, we’re hoping to raise close towards US $500,000.
Again, I’ve broken this down in my mind to US $25,000 chunks. This is the amount the Israel Cancer Research Fund awards as grants to young Israeli scientists towards research. One of my aims for BFF is to help out younger research students who might not receive grants as easily as scientists who are already well-known in this field.
How do you feel? What has it been like raising an event like this?
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and at the same time I can’t believe that I have managed to organise this. If someone would have said to me 8 months ago that this would be happening, I wouldn’t have believed it.
It might sound a bit strange but I‘m not doing this as a commemorative event for my dad; I’m thinking long-term. The strength to do this though comes from my dad; he was an amazingly inspirational person who fought a dreadfully evasive disease, and underwent major operations and severe treatment for years.
But I’m not thinking past, I’m thinking future. I’m thinking why can’t we cure cancer? Why do we have to hear those words “there is nothing we can do to help; there is no cure; I am sorry, we can’t do anymore”? That is what drives me – the frustration of there not being cures in the 21st century for many types of cancers. I cannot accept that. I figure if you pour money into research, there will be answers eventually.
What else do you have to organise?
Well, after months of massive effort it's all starting to come together now but we still need a rental car company to help us out with a vehicle.
What can people do to help besides donating money?
Help us to pass the word around to as many people as possible.
• Like us on Facebook.
• Go to the FB App, donate and join in.
• Share our Indiegogo page, and allow as many people as possible to contribute.
Do you have a message to those fighting cancer or who have lost family members and loved ones?
Do not be afraid to say what needs to be said to your loved ones. Cancer indiscriminately attacks anyone. Hard as it is, the worst things can happen to you but try to find the positives. Be active; live your life; live your dreams.
Will you keep Digital Journal updated on your journey and experiences?
Sure, I’ll definitely be in touch.
When you speak to and meet Tom Peled you will understand why Eric Heffler, ICRF's national executive director, is quoted as saying on JSpace.com that he is "one of the most extraordinary young men I've ever met" and continued to say that he wished that everyone in the world, when faced with such a horrible tragedy, could find such a positive strategy of coping with their grief.
Any car rental companies out there want to help out?