Ride + Walk For Cancer: Two Couples’ Tales

This Sunday (October 1, 8:15 a.m., Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk), the Raveis Ride + Walk kicks off. Since its inception 2 years ago, the 12-, 25- and 50-mile rides, 5K walk and children’s 100-yard dash event — plus food and music — has already raised $1.5 million for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

Every participant has a story. This is one of them.

Though Westporters Jeremy and Johanna Simon have supported the Ride + Walk in the past, earlier this year it became suddenly personal.

In May, Jeremy learned that a close family member had cancer. Quickly, he, his wife and brother-in-law assembled a cycling team of 14. They raised over $16,000. Members will participate in all cycling stages.

Among the riders: Tom Berenberg.

Jeremy and Tom became friends 20 years ago, at Duke University. At the same time Johanna and Alison Stein — later, their wives — were close friends at the University of Pennsylvania. The couples now have 2 young kids each, around the same age.

In 2011 Tom was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He endured 4 years of surgeries, cancer recurrences (including 41 tumors in his liver), brutal high-dose chemotherapy, transfusions, and doubts about survival.

The Simons were intimately involved in Tom’s care. They visited him in the hospital, and at home. They organized a surprise party too.

“Being sick and having everybody rally for you reinforces the importance of relationships,” Tom 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.”

There’s more to Tom’s story, though. At 38, he’s the same age his father was when he died. Tom was 5 then. His son Charlie is now almost 4.

Tom and Charlie Berenberg

Tom cherishes the 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 says.

“It’s also the scariest part — not the fear of dying, but leaving children without their father. I know from personal experience the void that creates in the life of a young kid.

“Having this happen at a relatively young age allows me to truly appreciate every moment I have with my family, to take joy in even the small moments, to truly work every day to cultivate their personalities and characters in a way that I hope lasts the rest of their lives.”

The Simons and Berenbergs will have a great time at Sunday’s Ride + Walk. Everyone else will too.

Each has his or her own reasons for biking, walking or just enjoying the day.

What’s yours?

(For more information on Sunday’s event, click here.)

The Raveis family — Chris, Ryan, Meghan and Bill — at last year’s Ride + Walk.

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