When Tom Peled’s father died of abdominal cancer in 2011, he channeled his grief into a three-month, 3,000-mile bike ride through six European countries — from Berlin, Germany, to Fisterra, Spain.
Peled, who lives in southern Israel, is now tackling another continent. On July 29, the 24-year-old Peled embarked on another extended bike ride — this time from Malibu to New York.
He also has a different purpose in mind: to eliminate cancer.
“After he passed away, I was in a state of depression,” Peled said, referring to his father, Remy. “After eight years of thinking that [my father] would survive, I didn’t know what I wanted to do next or where to go. Everyone was trying to tell me what to do, and I felt that I needed time for myself, to reconnect.”
He felt that the best way to cope with his emotions was to challenge himself on both a physical and mental level. Biking has always played a significant role in his life, from biking to school as a child to biking the entire length of Israel in 2009 with a friend when he finished his service in the Israeli army. Thus, he decided to challenge himself by spending the summer of 2011 biking across the European continent.
He embarked with no set plans, intending to “just land and let things happen.” He allotted $25 for his daily budget.
“It was amazing seeing that deep inside, people are really good. I just shared myself and my story with people all along the way and people always wanted to help. I never once paid for a place to sleep. People at cafes or in the street would see me and start talking to me. Soon enough, they’d invite me to stay with them for a few nights,” Peled said.
It was exactly this reaction and response from the people he met along the way that motivated Peled to elevate his bike ride to a larger purpose.
“I felt that I needed to take this energy and this love for biking and make something bigger out of it. And with that, I came back to Israel and pushed it forward into what eventually became Bike for the Fight,” Peled said.
This time, Peled will not be riding solo. He will be accompanied by three friends: Roey Peleg, a medic, will ride with Peled; Eran Rozen will drive with the team; and Luca Seres, a film student, will make a documentary of the trip.
Peled’s ultimate goal is to eliminate cancer. He plans on reaching this goal by donating all the money he raises along the way to the Israeli Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), an organization that is solely dedicated to funding and supporting cancer research in Israel for the benefit of Israel and all mankind. Since its inception in 1975, the fund has raised more than $40 million for cancer research in Israel.
“I want to make sure the minds stay in Israel,” Peled said. “Israel has so much potential, but we are always lacking the financing for research, and often our scientists go abroad to research. I was really committed to making sure that the money goes to research and that it goes to Israeli research.”
Peled and his team officially embarked on July 29 when they visited Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu, where Peled used to be a counselor.
Both in Israel and Los Angeles, several “kickoff” events were held to send them off and to raise money. To date, Bike for the Fight has raised $40,000, almost half of Peled’s $100,000 goal.
Along the way, Peled will stop in Jewish communities, summer camps and sporting events to share his story and encourage others to join his cause. Thanks to Microsoft, an app has been created allowing people to track the team’s progress and donate. He encourages anyone to accompany him on any part of his trip. The Maccabi World Union, Hillel, the Israeli Embassy and El-Al all have been strategic in supporting, funding and coordinating events for him. Peled even met with both President Shimon Peres and Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem, to gain their support.
Although he does not have any clear vision for the future, he knows that he does not want this bike trip to be his last. He wants to do it again and again. Ultimately, he hopes that Bike for the Fight can be the “Livestrong of the Jewish world.”
To learn more about Bike for the Fight, visit their page on Facebook.