Lafayette man starts 'Join the Voices' run-walk event, spurred by
father's death from brain cancer
By Lou Fancher
One of the best ways to beat brain cancer might be with your feet, according to Cole Feinberg, a 35-year-old Lafayette resident whose father succumbed to a brain tumor on Valentine's Day 2010.
Angling to make a real difference in fighting the disease, Feinberg is launching the West Coast chapter of "Voices Against Brain Cancer," a national nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and finding a cure.
An inaugural "Join the Voices! San Francisco Run/Walk" in Golden Gate Park this Sunday, Nov. 23 marks the first of what Feinberg hopes are many future events. Funds raised during the easy 5K run/walk and related family activities will go toward cancer research, support and care at selected institutions and programs in the Bay Area and throughout the United States. A number of local medical professionals and caretakers will be honored with humanitarian, courage, hope and compassionate care awards.
Voices Against Brain Cancer was founded on the East Coast by the family of Gary Lichtenstein, a Chicago finance trader who lost his life to brain cancer in 2003. The same year, Feinberg moved from his New York City-based job in finance to the Bay Area, but kept up a business-related relationship with Erich Lichtenstein, one of the organization's founders. In 2009, while his father was suffering the effects of a golf-ball sized tumor, Feinberg shared some of his fears and feelings about his father's illness with Lichtenstein.
"We became closer friends and I attended a few events, but I wasn't ready to participate more while my dad was in the throes of it," Feinberg recalled. His father had an aggressive, stage-four glioblastoma, and although he survived longer than most patients with that diagnosis, his death carved a raw, harrowing cavity in his son's outlook on life.
Eventually, Feinberg's anger and grief subsided enough to allow him to think, "How can I help?" Working in finance was great -- Feinberg is the director of iShares Institutional Sales with Blackrock Investments in San Francisco -- but it didn't fulfill his desire to play a part in preventing another family from experiencing the pain he felt as he watched his active, vibrant 63-year-old father lose his life to cancer.
"It was eye-opening, that someone so healthy ... " he said, pausing to fight back the sorrow that lingers. "The 'Big C' can get anyone."
But what "the Big C" will get in a return punch from the event in Golden Gate Park could be upward of $150,000. Feinberg and his co-chair, Matt Naumann, assistant winemaker with St. Helena-based Failla Wines, said they have raised $100,000 in pledges as of Nov. 15. Team Feinberg, at more than $17,000 -- "My mom, wife, kids and lots of family are participating," Feinberg says -- and Team Chris, at more than $15,000, were leading the pack this week. With just over a week to go and 400 people signed up for the walk, Feinberg said his East Coast advisers tell him the final week is often when most of the money comes in.
Participants in this debut event pay a $30-35 registration fee to walk or run, but a "virtual walk" option on the "Voices in Motion" website allows people to contribute from near or far.
Feinberg said the location for the first event was chosen for it' "panache" and its accessibility via public transportation. Face painting, raffle prizes, snacks and entertainment will fill a central family area and anyone can join the debut "get the boots on the ground" effort, even if they are not accomplished athletes.
"I'd love to see this 5K become a tradition," he said about future plans for the chapter. "I'm also thinking of concerts with cool live bands. Maybe call it 'Sounding Off For a Cure.' Wine-and-walk events are possible. And local pro sports teams offering goods ... a Joe Montana helmet to auction off would be great."
With Naumann's wine industry connections and Feinberg's finance relationships, the team is running a grass-roots effort to "find anyone with a philanthropic bone in their body," Feinberg said. After the unimaginable happened to his father, Feinberg plans to develop the chapter while imagining a future time when a cure for brain cancer is found.