Oct. 20, 2021 — Alec Fraser and his good friend Jamie Meehan are riding their bikes across the United States. They started in their hometown of Old Greenwich, Conn., on Aug. 15 and will finish in Santa Clara, Calif., on Oct. 22. They passed through Florence last week.
The reasons for their journey are threefold.
First, Alec and Jamie are raising money for Cycle for Survival. This is New York-based Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s fundraising drive for rare cancer research. All the money raised goes to help support rare cancer research and therapies.
The next reason for this trip is to honor Julian’s memory. Julian, Alec’s son with his wife Cristy, was just 20 years old when he passed away from osteosarcoma, a rare cancer that afflicts children and adolescents.
Julian was a student at Santa Clara University in California.
“He started swimming at a very early age,” Alec said. “He was just six years old when he first jumped into the pool and he really took to the water. It's kind of unusual for East Coast kids to be into water polo. It's a big West Coast sport that hasn't really caught on back east, but he loved it. He was an All-American for both water polo and swimming in high school. He chose to go to Santa Clara to play water polo. What a great choice that turned out to be.”
Every year, the university hosts what is now known as the “Julian Fraser Memorial Water Polo Tournament.” Alec and Jamie’s journey will end there, some 4,650 miles from where it started. The tournament starts Oct. 23.
“We were hugely honored when they renamed the tournament after him when he passed away,” Alec said. “They’re just a great bunch of kids. My oldest son kept in touch with Julian’s teammates and buddies, and about 50 of them are going to show up at the tournament. A lot of them are even riding with us from San Francisco. We go back there every year and a lot of Julian’s friends and the parents that we used to watch games with will be there. It's always a festive celebration.”
Another important reason is to simply raise awareness about rare cancers and the lack of attention they receive.
“I think people are really not aware of the fact that, when money is raised, childhood cancer only gets four cents on the dollar,” Alec said. “When you consider the loss of lives along with the age of those afflicted, it would surprise a lot people to know that amount is so low.”
Cristy is accompanying Alec and Jamie via van and providing support along the way.
“It seems like right now we're on the cusp of major breakthroughs in terms of cancer treatment and the fact that we're able to somehow help fund those clinical trials — which can make the difference for a lot of these families and kids — is huge,” she said.
The third reason for the journey is to pull together a community of people, just emerging from the COVID-19 lockdown, to do something positive and hopeful for others.
“I think one of the most important things we're trying to do is bring folks together to create as large a community as we can possibly build,” Alec said. “There's private support groups for families that have these rare cancers and those were so helpful to us. Though this ride is in Julian’s, honor we want to give hope to people fighting any cancer and also to those who provide them support.”
Jamie and Alec are also hoping to help bring awareness to the fact that rare cancers are not actually as “rare” as one would think.
“Cancers such as lymphoma, thyroid cancer and pancreatic cancer are considered rare cancers,” said Alec. “Over 50 percent of people with cancer have a ‘rare’ cancer. The thing is, these rare cancers tend to be harder to treat. When there’s a breakthrough in the treatment of rare cancers, those breakthroughs tend to spill over into more common cancers.”
One thing Jamie and the Frasers all agree on is how wonderful everyone has been along the way.
“One thing that struck me is the kindness we’ve been shown at every stop along the way,” said Cristy. “It's been incredible everywhere. Every little town we’ve passed through.”
Follow Jamie and Alec’s journey on Instagram at @teamjf or on Facebook/TeamJF4Cure. people can also donate at bit.ly/TeamJF4Cure.