Riding After Surviving

FAIRFIELD, CT—Among the some 1,000 bicyclists and walkers expected to take part in this Sunday’s 3rd annual William Raveis Ride & Walk, a charitable fundraiser in partnership with the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, will be Fairfield resident Tom Berenberg, for whom the day holds several layers of meaning.

Tom & his son, Charlie.

In 2011, Berenberg, who moved to Fairfield a year and a half ago with his wife and two young children, was diagnosed with testicular cancer. That event precipitated four years of surgeries, cancer recurrences—at one point, doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center found 41 tumors in his liver—high-dose chemotherapy, transfusions and doubt about his chances for survival.

Last spring, when he learned that the disease had afflicted a relative of one of his best friends, Westporter Jeremy Simon, he reached out to the Simon family, sharing his experiences and offering advice. Knowing of Jeremy and his wife, Johanna’s, past support of William Raveis Ride + Walk, he also offered to join the couple’s Kane/Simon cycling team to raise money for cancer research.

“Jeremy and Johanna have been intimately involved in my cancer care,” recalls Tom, an ophthalmologist specializing in diseases and retina surgery, “They came to visit me all the time in the hospital and at home while I was recovering from treatment. Being sick and having everybody rally for you reinforces how important your relationships are. 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 participation in the Raveis Ride + Walk this year, 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, Jason Crawford, a Yale cancer researcher who is one of the scientists funded by Raveis and the Damon Runyon Foundation, is also 38, is married and lives in Shelton not far from Raveis corporate headquarters, and is the father of two young children. He will be among the Damon Runyon scientists attending this year’s Ride + Walk.)

Fairfield resident Bill Raveis, the Founder, Chairman and CEO of William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance, the largest family-owned real estate company in Connecticut and the Northeast, decided to start a fundraiser three years ago after he was personally affected by the disease through his wife, Candace’s diagnosis with a rare form of leukemia. To date, the event has raised approximately $1.5 million, with 100 percent of proceeds directly benefiting the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, which in turn supports emerging, talented scientists whose groundbreaking research holds promise for curing the deadly disease.

This year’s William Raveis Ride + Walk will be held at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk and will feature 12-mile, 25-mile and new 50-mile rides, a 5-K walk and children’s 100-yard dash, plus food, music and guest speakers, including Berenberg and other survivors.

“We are very excited about growing the event this year through the addition of the 50-mile bike ride,” says Meghan Raveis, Managing Director of the William Raveis Charitable Fund, which sponsors the event. “Hopefully these new riders, in addition to our past participants, will allow us to donate an even larger amount of money to the scientists with the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and the important work they are doing.”’

To register for the 3rd annual William Raveis Ride + Walk, to join a Ride + Walk team, or to learn more about cancer research and support the William Raveis Charitable Fund and the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, please go to www.RaveisRideWalk.com.

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