Winter Garden resident Marty Perlmutter will embark on cross-country bike ride to raise money for multiple myeloma research in memory of his late best friend.
When Winter Garden resident Marty Perlmutter lost his best friend, Roy Gross, to multiple myeloma in 2012, he wasn’t about to let it be in vain.
So, he got on his bicycle a few months later and embarked on a 17-day journey from Jacksonville to Maine. Those 1,348 miles ridden ended up raising $8,000 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
When Roy died from the incurable blood cancer, cycling to raise money toward research for a cure was a no-brainer. Roy was “the Putz to my Moron, from the Grumpy Old Men movies,” as Perlmutter likes to say, and the two had originally planned to do a cross-country Portland to Portland ride once they retired.
CYCLING FOR A CAUSE
Fifteen years ago, Perlmutter’s hobby of choice was golf. But golfing wasn’t cheap, so Perlmutter took up a friend’s offer to come cycling with him one weekend. He got out an old, steel Huffy bike that weighed about 100 pounds and hit the trails.
“I got into riding with him and started doing 30, 40, 50 miles,” Perlmutter said. “I did a cross-Florida ride and got a new bike.”
That’s when the planning for a cross-country ride began. But in June 2011, Roy called Perlmutter, asking him if he was sitting down. That’s when his best friend said he had multiple myeloma.
Research, even just five years ago, wasn’t where it is today. Roy’s progression was quick, and he died in February 2012.
“Along that time and right before he passed, I said, ‘You know something? I’m gonna do a long-distance bike-ride fundraiser in your honor when you die,’” Perlmutter said. It was half in jest, half completely serious.
Perlmutter chose the MMRF because it is the leader in multiple myeloma research, having developed and introduced four new cancer treatments within the span of a year. In his opinion, he said, the foundation is doing more in this field than just about anywhere else in the world.
He ended up connecting with Alicia O’Neill, director of business development and partnerships for MMRF. She assisted him in setting up contacts every day of his 17-day ride in 2012. She also has been instrumental in coordinating and bringing to fruition Perlmutter’s next endeavor — a 3,400-mile ride over the span of 50 days, from Los Angeles to Connecticut.
Starting Sept. 3, Perlmutter will join seven others on the 50-day journey. Other riders will begin with them in Los Angeles and ride to Flagstaff. Each rider is required to raise at least $15,000 for MMRF, and the overall team goal is $400,000. Currently, they are about halfway to their goal. Some of the riders he is joining, in fact, are multiple myeloma patients themselves.
Seven days of the trip will require the team to ride 95 miles or more. And of the 50 days, 45 will be spent just riding.
“For me it’s a question of, ‘Can a 66-year-old guy ride 3,400 miles in 50 days?” Perlmutter said. “I don’t know if I can do it; but my mind says I will do it.”
NEVER LOSING TRACK
Roy and Perlmutter met when they were in their 20s. They, along with their wives, Pam and Barbara, became the best of friends quickly.
“They were our best buddies,” Perlmutter said. “We would do everything to prank each other to play jokes on each other. Whenever we were together, I was always making him (Roy) laugh. When we lost him it was like, ‘Wow.’ When a member of your peer group dies, (you realize) you’re not immortal.”
"When someone’s important in your life, you don’t forget them. …You never lose track of what they meant to you." - Marty Perlmutter
It was an invaluable friendship unlike any other. As Perlmutter puts it, you have friends and then you have friends.
“I have golfing friends, pool table friends, but Roy was the yin to my yang,” he said. “We played off each other all the time. If you’re fortunate enough to have one relationship like that in your lifetime — we’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple of them.”
It’s people like Roy who Perlmutter calls his heroes. Both the multiple myeloma patients’s daily fights and the strides MMRF is making is what moves him to push himself and help further research in their honor.
“What the foundation has done in the last five to seven years is make tremendous strides in being able to manage your disease,” he said. “I don’t want my friend Roy to die because he got the disease before they had something that could really help him.”
“He’s a very focused individual, determined to do whatever he sets his mind to,” said Marty’s wife, Barbara Perlmutter. “We’ve been married for over 45 years and work next to each other. I’m going to miss him and be a little nervous (for him) on certain areas. I’m excited that he’s going to do it, and I know he’s going to be OK, that’s the main thing. They’ll take good care of him.”
Ultimately, Perlmutter said, he’s happy to do something that will make a difference and help find a cure or treatment.
“I can’t cure cancer, but I’m still healthy enough where I can go out, ride and get something done,” he said. “Friends keep telling me what a nice thing I’m doing and keeping the memory of Roy alive five years later. When someone’s important in your life, you don’t forget them. …You never lose track of what they meant to you.”
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].