Firefighter’s Long Ride For a Good Cause

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Fireman Oleg Pelekhaty just before departing Salem Fire Station #2 for Nashville.

Fireman Oleg Pelekhaty just before departing Salem Fire Station #2 for Nashville.

by Cheryl Hodges

Fire stations across the country are joining in support of one of their own, who has embarked on an ambitious cross country motorcycle trip he is calling MOCA—Motorcycling for Ovarian Cancer Awareness. Oleg Pelekhaty, a firefighter from DC, is staying overnight in firehouses along the way—and he was in Roanoke, staying at Fire Station #5 for his first overnight stop last Monday.

He stopped by Salem Station #2 the next morning to check in with a buddy who works there before getting back on the road en route to Nashville. The goal: 6000 miles in 16 days to raise $6000 for the HERA (Health Empowerment Research Awareness) Women’s Ovarian Cancer Foundation.

Pelekhaty says he “cold-called fire departments after picking spots to stay, and no one said no; everyone has been great.” He is keeping expenses down with the unusual lodging, and meeting a lot of fellow supportive firemen who seem to enjoy the diversion.

Seemingly an odd cause for a 25-year-old young man, it turns out his connection to the disease is deeply personal. The disease runs in the family of his future bride, Stacy. Her grandmother died with it in her 40s and her mother, who has been in remission for nearly 10 years, was also diagnosed with Lynch syndrome.

According to Pelekhaty’s blog, “Lynch syndrome is heritable genetic mutation that increases the risk of a host of cancers, including ovarian, brain and colon among them. The disorder carries a 50% chance of being passed on to the next generation, and doctors recommend genetic testing for direct offspring because there is no good monitoring test for ovarian cancer.”

After some wrangling with the insurance company, Stacy was able to be tested and it came back negative for the disease. But Pelekhaty still wanted to do more, to do something “more effective, and I wanted the money I raised to go to the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation, an organization that invests upwards of 85% of monies donated to research, awareness, education and community support as they seek to ‘Stop the Loss of Women From Ovarian Cancer.’”

So he finds himself on a cross-country ride with his trusty 2007 Harley Davidson “Street Bob”—“a very Spartan bike” according to Pelekhaty. The bike in person is rather unassuming for a Harley, not all that big, and certainly not what most would choose to spend 6000 miles on. When asked if he can at least listen to music to while away the time, he grins and says, “no, none of those ports on this bike.” Spartan indeed.

There is an overall plan in place, including a spread sheet with contact information and addresses for his overnight stops, but as far as refueling, he says “when the gas light comes on I’ll start looking for a gas station.”

Unfortunately, his morale was seriously challenged just as the trip began. One of his potential donors generously offered to go on the ride with him instead of donating funds, making the trip seem much less daunting. On the way to Roanoke, Pelekhaty recounts on his blog that “We had a saddle bag malfunction. Turns out, when the bag gets sucked into the rear wheel, it’s hard to stay upright. Eric’s OK, for the most part, but it looks like I’ll be going on alone … Updates to follow.”

He said he considered calling the trip off, “but it helps I’m doing it for a good cause – it makes it harder to up and quit.” He adds that while his fiancee had mixed feelings about the trip, “She is proud of me.”

Pelekhaty, who is originally from Russia, and moved here when he was six, has absolutely no accent. He joked that he would not want to have a Russian accent anyway because “it is not one of the sexier accents, like an Australian or Irish accent.” Stacy and Pelekhaty are going to be married in November. It sure looks like they both got “keepers.”

 

To follow Oleg Pelekhaty’s trip, or to make a donation, visit motorcyclefundraiser.blogspot.com