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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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Cyclist’s fundraising journey starts in Toronto

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Tom Peled, centre, front row

WINNIPEG — On Aug. 19, Israeli cyclist Tom Peled and his support team set off from Centre Camp in Toronto on his second annual “Bike for the Fight” (BFF) aimed at raising money for the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF).

Peled said the campers saw him off with signs and balloons, and some even accompanied him for the first few kilometers.

The 25-year-old former paratrooper’s route will take him from Toronto west through Hamilton and Niagara Falls into upstate New York, where he’ll turn south and pass through Boston, New York and other communities along the American east coast, ending his 2,500-km ride in Washington, D.C.

Last year, Peled cycled 5,000 kilometres from Los Angeles to New York and raised about $100,000 for the ICRF, which was enough to fund two Israeli scientists doing cancer research, he said.

This year’s effort is shorter in part, Peled said, because he doesn’t have as much time, and because the Jewish communities in the U.S. West and Midwest were few and far between.

The ICRF is a North American organization that gives grants to top Israeli cancer researchers. It was founded in 1975 by a group of Canadian and American researchers, oncologists and laypeople committed to the growth and development of cancer research in Israel.

Since its inception, it’s provided more than 2,000 grants worth about $50 million to cancer research in Israel.

Peled, a student of government and political science at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya, took up his cycling and fundraising efforts after cancer took his father two years ago. His father, who was 58 when he died, suffered from a rare form of stomach cancer.

“I wanted to turn our family’s tragedy into some positive action,” Peled said.

“After meeting a young scientist whose work was being funded by the ICRF and someone who had also lost her father to cancer, I decided to launch my BFF.”

Peled actually launched this second ride with a reception in Winnipeg a few days before his Toronto departure. He flew into Winnipeg, because this is the hometown of his girlfriend, Alma Sifrim, who made aliyah two years ago.

In 1997, Sifrim’s family was among the first Argentine Jewish families to immigrate to Winnipeg.  About 50 members of the Jewish community here – mainly of Argentine origin – attended a reception for Peled. He also put in appearances at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, the community’s largest congregation, and at Temple Shalom, the community’s only Reform congregation.

Peled is being accompanied on his trek by Sifrim and a support team of four – along with four bikes, which allow other team members to cycle with him for varying periods.

He said a major activity of his fundraising efforts will be a series of what he calls “spin-a-thons.” Scheduled for Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Toronto, the spin-a-thons are intended to attract supporters who will pedal stationary bikes in gyms to raise money for the cause.

“We raised $30,000 from our spin-a-thon in Toronto last year,” he said. “This sort of event gives people the chance to physically join us, not just give money.”

Peled and his team fly back to Israel on Oct. 15. For more information, visit www.bikeforthefight.com.

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