Iron men say 'Eye Can'

If you ever wondered how to start a charity just ask South African-born Carl Linde, who made aliya only two years ago.

If you ever wondered how to start a charity just ask South African-born Carl Linde, who made aliya only two years ago but has wasted little time using his personal and professional experience to establish the non-profit organization Eye Can to help raise awareness to childhood eye cancer. Known scientifically as retinoblastoma, the disease is congenital, says Linde, who discovered not long after their birth that two of his four children suffered from the condition. "When I made aliya [with my family] from London I realized that there was little awareness here both among doctors and the public," he explains. "It is critical that it is identified in the early stages or the tumors can spread." His two children managed to get away with losing use of only one eye. Not long after moving here, Linde, a financial investor, contacted Prof. Ya'acov Pe'er, head of ophthalmology at Hadassah-University Medical Center, and Dr. Michel Weintraub, who heads the hospital's pediatric hematology and oncology department, to ask them if such an organization was needed. With an encouraging response from the two experts, who estimate that roughly 50 children in Israel each year are diagnosed with eye cancer, Linde set about building Eye Can. It became a registered charity in April. "We've already had one family come to see us for support," he says. "The child had tumors in both eyes but the first pediatrician who saw him diagnosed it as cataracts." Eye Can's first event to change such common misconceptions, even by members of the medical profession, is to sponsor four fellow Anglo-immigrants in their endeavors to complete the grueling Iron Man triathlon. "We are hoping to raise roughly $20,000-$30,000," says Linde, whose investment company Hirsch & Co. and Herzliya restaurant The Meat and Wine Company are sponsoring the athletes by providing them with clothing and essential equipment for the race. An avid triathlete himself, Linde says that a revolutionary treatment has already been developed in the US to treat retinal cancer using chemotherapy, but that it is as yet unavailable here. "I hope that the funds will go toward bringing this method and essential equipment to Israel." Linde, who will accompany the Iron Man competitors to Switzerland in July, is also planning to launch a poster campaign in the coming months to let the public know how to detect such a condition in young children. "There are simple ways to do this," he says. "Even just noticing in a regular photo whether the children's eyes show up with a silvery glow or not could determine if they have cancer. It is amazing how little people know about this."