PROVO, Utah – If you were driving down I-15 on Thursday morning and noticed a Honda wrapped in decals with the word “hope,” you might have seen Dave Fleischer embarking on the start of a 15,000-mile road trip.
Fleischer and his wife flew from New Jersey to Utah on Wednesday, picked up a Honda car from the Ken Garff dealer in Orem, and started their journey.
His wife will be joining him on parts of the journey, while Fleischer will be doing other parts of it by himself.
The massive road trip is being done to celebrate the 15th anniversary since the start of the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation and also to honor his late daughter Sarah, who passed away after a four-and-a-half-year battle with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer of the bile duct.
Sarah passed away in 2018, and Dave decided to retire in 2019 with big hopes of somehow honoring his daughter.
“One of the things I said I was going to do was go drive across the country,” Fleischer said. “I do road trips as a hobby, but I’ve never done anything like what this is turning into.”
The original plan had Fleischer driving and visiting patients and caregivers that were supportive of his daughter during her fight with cholangiocarcinoma. The idea was to start that journey at the beginning of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a wrench in those plans.
With the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation’s 15th anniversary in 2021, the foundation invited Fleischer to be a part of the committee that was planning to celebrate the achievement in some way.
Words that came up during the committee meetings included hope, crystal and clear.
The number 15 got into Fleischer’s head and he began to think more about ways to celebrate.
“That led to me then saying, ‘Why don’t we put together a 15,000-mile drive?’” Fleischer said. “15,000 miles is enough to get people’s attention. I’ve done a lot of 1,500-mile drives but I’ve never done 15,000.”
He began looking into the word hope and towns that include the word in its name. He found out there were 23 towns that included the word hope, so he figured he could visit 15 of those.
Then he thought about visiting 15 cancer research hospitals across the country.
Once all of the ideas settled in, Dave began planning but he did not know the impact that his journey was going to have.
He said he has had patients and other people reach out to meet with him along the way, some of whom have connections to his daughter and the Facebook group she created for those diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma.
Through that Facebook group, Dave has started to hear stories about his daughter being the first person to reach out to many people about their diagnosis.
“Just hearing the stories, it tells me a lot about my daughter that quite honestly, there were a lot of things that I didn’t know about,” Fleischer said. “I’ve learned so much just from planning this trip. It’s been a real boost in my life.”
When asked about what his daughter would think of this journey, Fleischer said she would love it. He added that she enjoyed joining in on rides with him as well.
According to Fleischer, it also would have been a great opportunity for Sarah to meet people involved with the foundation or those that have cholangiocarcinoma throughout the country.
Everyone that has commented on the journey has told Fleischer that Sarah would be so proud of him.
With his journey starting on Thursday, Fleischer said he is a bit nervous about it because he has some back issues.
“Other than that, I know that there is a lot of good in the country, and I am hoping to meet with a lot of people that are willing to share stories with me about what hope means and to raise awareness with what others might call the unknowing,” Fleischer said.
With many not knowing what cholangiocarcinoma is, Fleischer is hoping to spread that awareness and educate some people while also visiting caregivers and patients along the way.
He is also hoping to dodge any speeding tickets and road rage.
“That’s already been stated by the foundation, who has let me know about that,” Fleischer said.