Not long after Jeremy and Johanna Simon moved to Westport, Connecticut two and a half years ago, they became friends with Ryan and Meghan Raveis and learned about the annual Raveis Ride + Walk. Although the Simons had supported the event in the past, it wasn’t until earlier this year that they became personally involved.
In May, Jeremy learned that a close family member was diagnosed with cancer. Quickly, he, his wife and his brother-in-law, Chris Kane, assembled the Kane/Simon cycling team that has grown to 14 members, including Jeremy’s parents and their friends in Manhattan, and has raised over $16,000 for the cause.
The team’s members will be participating in all the stage events on October 1st.
“We’d supported friends who participated in the Ride +Walk last year,” says Jeremy, “but this year we decided it was something we could do as a whole family along with our friends.”
Among the friends riding on the Kane/Simon team will be Tom Berenberg, who holds a special place in the Westport couple’s hearts.
Simon and Berenberg, both 38, became friends 20 years ago as undergrads at Duke University. At the same time their wives, Johanna and Alison Stein, were close friends at the University of Pennsylvania. Both couples have two young children of approximately the same age. Tom was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011, an event that precipitated four years of surgeries, cancer recurrences—at one point, doctors at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital found 41 tumors in his liver—brutal high-dose chemotherapy, transfusions and grave doubt about his chances for survival.
“Jeremy and Johanna have been intimately involved in my cancer care,” Tom recalls. “They came to visit me all the time in the hospital and at home while I was recovering from treatment. When I was finished with one of the rounds of chemo, they helped organize a surprise party for me at a restaurant—I thought I was just going out to dinner with them and my wife—and when I showed up tons of people were on hand to be with me.”
Last Spring, then, when Berenberg learned that the disease had afflicted a relative of the Simons, he reached out to the family, sharing his experiences and offering advice. Knowing of Jeremy and Johanna’s past support of Raveis Ride + Walk, he also offered to join the cycling team.
“Being sick and having everybody rally for you reinforces how important your relationships are,” he says, “but it’s also draining being the one receiving so much attention. Now, as a survivor, helping someone else who’s going through this is amazing–I feel lucky to be here in this position to offer support in whatever way possible.”
But there is another layer to Tom Berenberg’s involvement in the Raveis Ride + Walk, and to his own recovery: At 38, he is the same age his father was when he died. Tom was five at the time. With a son, Charlie, who is almost four, Berenberg seems especially grateful for the extended time he’s been given to be with his family.
“To me, that’s the most profound and poignant part of having had cancer,” he observes. “It’s also the scariest part—not the fear of dying but leaving children without their father, knowing from personal experience the kind of void that creates in the life of a young kid. Having this happen at a relatively early age has allowed me to truly appreciate every moment that I have with my family and my kids, to try to take joy in even the small moments, to truly work every day to try to cultivate their personalities and characters in a way that I hope lasts for the rest of their lives.”
(Coincidentally, perhaps, Jason Crawford, a Yale cancer researcher and one of the scientists funded by Raveis and Damon Runyon, is also 38; is married and lives in Shelton not far from Raveis corporate headquarters; and is the father of two young children himself. Crawford will be among the Damon Runyon scientists attending this year’s Ride + Walk. For more on Crawford, visit our blog on him here.)
For Jeremy and Johanna Simon, meanwhile, their friendship with Ryan and Meghan Raveis, and their family member’s diagnosis, have added a certain gravitas to their participation in this year’s fundraiser. “Whenever friends put their own personal resources—whether it’s time, money, their own effort—behind a cause, I think it’s important to be supportive,” Jeremy notes. “Our involvement has made the cause real and meaningful, not just something for which we’re checking a box.”
“From a personal perspective,” he adds, “we’re supporting a great charity but we’re also supporting a family member who’s currently going through this ordeal.”
To register for the 3rd annual Raveis Ride + Walk, to join a Ride + Walk team, or to find out to how to learn more about cancer research and to support the William Raveis Charitable Fund and the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, please go to www.RaveisRideWalk.com.