They come from all over the country, highly motivated college-age kids with a desire to change the world. They apply, and if accepted, must raise a minimum of $4,500, yet most raise more. They commit to 70 days of cycling, many more than 100 miles a day to beat cancer.
This is the mindset of the 4K for Cancer cyclist.
They ride in the rain, they ride in the wind, they ride in the heat and sometimes sleep in a park or a church. The reasons they ride are many: One had an uncle diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and he couldn’t do anything about it but do this ride. His current girlfriend rode because her best friend since grade school was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 20. One rode for the adventure and hearing the stories of the people with cancer.
They ride for the Trevor Wuths, the Nate Hutchings, the Sara Swensons — all from Fallon — and the families who travel a journey they don’t ask for with their child. The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults is the parent Foundation for the 4K. This foundation provides cancer support services to help young adults with cancer.
This week they will ride into Fallon from Austin, 111 miles away, in the summer heat and will be hosted by the Fallon Church of the Nazarene. Have you counted the trees between here and Austin? They do this every day. The riders are supplied with two support vans, cycling gear and a donated bike — this year it’s Cannondale bikes. Many haven’t ridden since childhood. They have to learn to clip in and out — not an easy task. Some rode around the Johns Hopkins University parking lot in the dark learning to ride again.
One cyclist said he rode in his apartment and almost ran into his TV. One cyclist told me he fell every single day until one day in July, it clicked and he never fell again. Another met a girl on this ride, and now they are planning their life together. One sat on her bike in her hall, holding the walls, while she figured out clips. They touched the Atlantic Ocean with the bike tires, and off they traveled, west, until they will reach the Pacific Ocean where it all ends 70 days’ later.
They are taught basic bike repair and must train before they start. They have 14 days off out of the 70, but seven of those days are “service days” where they meet cancer patients, listen to their stories and generally inspire the patients and their families. The cyclists, too, are inspired by the stories, and each morning “circle up” and dedicate that day of riding to a cancer victim or survivor by writing their name on their calves.
They must go to the next town and solicit food donations, as to not dip into the precious funds that go to support cancer patients. There are approximately 15 staff members of the Ulman Foundation, so the percentage of money raised that directly helps these young adults is 84 percent.