With bikes at the ready, ‘Rabbi and Reverend’ ride for diabetes fundraiser

With bikes at the ready, ‘Rabbi and Reverend’ ride for diabetes fundraiser

Rabbi Eli Seidan says the Tour de Cure is a great way to have fun while raising money for a worthwhile cause.
Rabbi Eli Seidan says the Tour de Cure is a great way to have fun while raising money for a worthwhile cause.

They call themselves “The Intrepid Rabbi and Reverend,” and they want to be No. 1.

Granted, the name might be a good one for a super-hero duo, but it is also a fitting moniker for the Tour de Cure bicycling team led by Eli Seidman, a rabbi, and Jeremy Wanless, the son-in-law of a reverend. The goal is for their team to be first in fundraising for the American Diabetes Association through its 2014 cycling event.

The fearless team is well on its way.

As of last Friday, The Intrepid Rabbi and Reverend already had secured $6,500 in pledges, and were in first place among the teams registered to ride. Seidman, 60, who had himself raised $4,600, was listed as the event’s top individual fundraiser.

This year’s Tour de Cure, on May 18, begins and ends at Seneca Valley High School. It will be Seidman’s seventh ride raising money for diabetes, he said. He teamed up with Wanless, a friend, three years ago.

“I’m not a big bike enthusiast,” said Seidman, who is the director of pastoral care at the Jewish Association on Aging. “But, I was looking for something to keep me physically fit. I couldn’t run anymore because of hip problems, so I looked for something else. There are two purposes to my riding: It keeps me fit, and I do this as a way to say, ‘Let’s do something for diabetes.’”

Diabetes is a disease that has been part of Seidman’s life for many years. His wife, Terri, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 13. His sister-in-law was diagnosed when she was 8. His father-in-law has had the disease for more than 50 years.

Seidman’s co-captain, Wanless, 38, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2008. He is committed to fundraising for the ADA, he said, to ensure help for others who have or will have the disease. He worries that one or both of his two children could also develop diabetes, because there is a genetic component to the disease.

“There is a 20 percent chance that my children will get it,” he said. “So I always keep an eye out for the symptoms.”

The Tour de Cure, which runs throughout Butler, Mercer and Lawrence counties, has four route lengths to accommodate all levels of ability: five miles, 25 miles, 50 miles and 100 miles.

Both Seidman and Wanless will be doing the 25-mile route this year.

The goal of their team of nine riders is to raise $10,000, Seidman said, and he is optimistic they can do it. The team was ranked fifth’ in 2013.

“Last year, I raised more than I have in the past,” Seidman said. “I’ve put it on Facebook, and I’m appealing to the rabbis. Some of them donate from their discretionary funds.”

Next week’s ride will be the 17th annual Tour de Cure in Western Pennsylvania and is one of 90 such rides around the country, according to Julie Heverly, executive director of the ADA of Western Pennsylvania.

“This is the No. 1 fundraising vehicle for our organization,” Heverly said. “We have over 400 registered riders and 150 volunteers.”

The riders are of all ages, she said, ranging from toddlers, who are sometimes pulled alongside their parents in carts, to those in their 70s.

The ADA’s mission is twofold, according to Heverly.

“We are doing everything we can to prevent it and to find a cure,” she said, “and we are also committed to improving the lives of those affected by diabetes.”

For Seidman, the ride is a pleasant way to help a good cause.

“It’s an opportunity to get people together, to raise money and to have fun,” he said.

 (Toby Tabachnick can be reached at tobyt@thejewishchronicle.net.)