Multistate bike trip benefits foundation to help sick children

Thursday, August 17, 2006

College students Kevin Sajdak and Alex Evans are cycling from Jackson, Miss., to Chicago to raise money for the Jordan Lee Fish Foundation, named for Jordan Lee Fish, a 14-year-old who died of leukemia in 2003.

Sajdak heard of the foundation through Fish's sister, Marnie, whom he attends Syracuse University with.

The foundation began as a way of preserving Jordan's short life. Three ways include scholarships, donations to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and donations to the oncology department at Hackensack University Medical Center.

The bicyclists stopped in Cape Girardeau to get their bikes checked before continuing the journey, aimed at racking up at least 75 miles per day. The average speed, with rest stops figured in, is about 11.5 miles per hour.

'Time to give back'

"Both Alex and I have had very positive childhoods. It's time to give back. Any not-for-profit group does the grunt work. What we're doing is pale by comparison," Sajdak said. "I'm hoping any recognition we receive will promote people to get involved with or give support to the Fish Foundation or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society."

A total of $10,000 in scholarships at Johnathan Dayton High School in Springfield, N.J., will be awarded this year. Fish would have graduated from there this year.

The society, whose mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families affected by blood cancers, receives a portion of the proceeds raised by the foundation. The medical center was supplied with 12 in-house laptops from the foundation, for use by sick children to communicate with friends, family and loved ones.

Evans and Sajdak will donate all the proceeds of their fund-raising goal, estimated at about $4,000, to the foundation and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Robert Fish and his wife, Yeda Zaitz Fish, established the Jordan Lee Fish Foundation Inc. in memory of their son. Fish's sister, Marnie, serves as vice president of the foundation.

Searching for lodging

According to the pair, probably the most stressful part of the trip is determining where they'll sleep each night. Hotels are preferred, but to keep out of the rain one night, a tool shed sufficed.

Sajdak said the trip's purpose was also to raise awareness of the disease whose exact causes are unknown. Exposure to benzene and formaldehyde, high levels of radiation (as in nuclear power plant accidents), chemotherapy, Down syndrome and certain other genetic diseases, human T-cell leukemia virus and myelodysplastic syndrome are some instances that increase the risk factor in getting leukemia.

The Society supports the research, patient services, public and professional education, advocacy and community services.

Individuals wishing to make a donation to the foundation may contact Sajdak at (773) 208-8498.

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611 extension 133

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