Kendall Park resident Arie Behar had a simple idea to honor his late wife Amy after her death from cancer at the age of 49 in 2007. With help from family and friends, Behar held the first Bike Ride for Amy fundraiser in July, 2008. The ride began modestly, with 28 people participating.
Fast forward to 2012 and what began as a small bike ride to honor a wife and mother has evolved into the Amy Foundation, which to date has raised over $300,000 to help women over the age of 40, who are without health insurance, obtain free screening mammograms.
"I'm so gratified by the passion of the volunteers who have rallied around this vital cause since we started The Amy Foundation five years ago, and by the support we have received in the central New Jersey health care community," Behar said. "We are making a meaningful difference in the lives of thousands of women and we've only just begun."
Amy Feiman Behar was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer in October 2000, as the disease soon spread into her lymph nodes and bloodstream. During her fight with cancer, Amy underwent several surgeries, chemotherapy, daily radiation treatments, and a mastectomy. Several months after her mastectomy, Amy learned that the cancer had spread to her bones and was making its way to her other organs.
After a six-year battle with cancer, Amy died at the age of 49 on March 29, 2007, leaving behind behind two daughters and her husband of 24 years. She died seven weeks before her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, nine weeks before her oldest daughter graduated from Vassar College, and 20 weeks before her 50th birthday.
"Amy was extremely concerned about women’s issues," Behar said. "She cared about those who couldn’t afford health insurance and she always said how lucky we were to have insurance. So the idea of combining her interest in women’s issues and helping fight the disease she didn’t survive is something she would appreciate."
Since its inception, the foundation has sponsored more than 1,000 mammograms for women. In addition, The Amy Foundation donated $10,000 to the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Foundation in New Brunswick to establish “The Amy Fund,” which supports diagnostic procedures, such as ultrasounds, for women whose mammograms suggest the possibility of breast cancer. The foundation has also expanded its reach by establishing a diagnostic program with Princeton Health Care System.
"When a woman gets a mammogram, sometimes the results are inconclusive, meaning the screening tells a woman she has something but we don't know what it is," Behar said. "So we want to help these women with no insurance take the next step, which is a diagnostics text. That's the next step for the foundation, to provide women who are horrified by an inconclusive mammogram with a diagnostics ultrasound."
With so much attention and funding allocated to organizations working to find a cure for cancer, Behar said the Amy Foundation helps to fill a void by providing resources for early detection and treatment.
"We've made tremendous progress in the management of the disease, and we're able to extend the life expectancy while reducing the side effects and making it easier," he said. "But we haven't found a cure and there are so many different forms of cancer. There's no one pill that you can get to treat cancer. The idea is, in addition to finding a cure, to provide treatment and better management, so we can hopefully detect cancer while it's in an early stage to give women a better chance at survival."
To help fund the mission of the foundation, the 5th Annual Bike Ride for Amy will be held on June 3, originating at South Brunswick High School.
The ride features three courses:
- A 25-mile route that is a very flat, easy ride for all levels, running through Plainsboro and South Brunswick.
- A 35-mile route that is more challenging and includes the hills on Herrontown and Coppermine Roads.
- A 50-mile route that is very challenging with 2,700 feet of climbing, including the above climbs and Sourland Mountain.
Halter's Cycles in Monmouth Junction will give a 10 percent discount on bicycle tune-ups to all Bike Ride for Amy registrants. Entry costs $25 and includes a t-shirt, water bottle and wrist band.
The foundation is also asking all participants to raise a minimum of $140, including the entry fee, which is the cost of a mammogram for an uninsured woman. Riders who raise $420, the cost of three mammograms, will receive a beautifully designed cycling jersey or matching cycling shorts. All participants who raise at least $840, the cost of six mammograms, will receive both the Bike Ride for Amy cycling jersey and the cycling shorts.
All riders will be provided with a Bike Ride for Amy t-shirt. Beverages and snacks will be provided at the start of the ride and at a rest stop along each of the three routes.
"I think we're doing the right thing and we're helping women that otherwise might not have had the resources to get answers," Behar said. "We're going in a number of directions raising funds to give to hospitals for more programs and increasing the base of the women that we can help by expanding geographically to different locations. It makes it easier for women throughout this area to get treatment and we've also started providing additional services. These are all very good things and we've seen encouraging growth over the last five years since we held the first Bike Ride for Amy."
Click here to register for the fifth annual Bike Ride for Amy or to learn more about the Amy Foundation.