You have a voice, you have a story, everyone does. On Sunday, I share yours. Courage, hope and inspiration: The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (31): From Sea to Shining Sea
I want to ride, ride like the wind, to be free again. – Christopher Cross
Those who can are doing it for those who can’t. It started in early June and you can bet as you are reading this their wheels are turning, as groups of college students are biking across America with the goal of offering support and funding for young cancer victims along the way. It is hope for the future and these kids are giving up their summer to do just that, bring hope to tomorrow, hope to those who sometimes feel as if there is none, those young adults fighting the big “C”. It is inspiration at its finest. It is the 4K for Cancer, a four thousand mile ride to help in the battle against the beast.
The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults was founded by Doug Ulman, who at the age of 19 was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his back and is now a three-time cancer survivor. As with so many great ideas, the Ulman Cancer Fund started with a simple discussion around the dining room table, as Doug, several family members, friends and neighbors dreamed up the plan for this organization to help young adults with cancer. Since 1997 the organization has been providing crucial support to thousands of young adults in need. The 4K for Cancer is one of its premiere events.
One of those making this year’s ride is 22-year-old Natalie Fischer. Natalie and 24 other college-age students are part of Team Seattle, they are making the ride from Baltimore to the Great Northwest. They left on June 1st and as of this writing are in Chicago, as they pedal with a purpose across this great land, to their final destination in Seattle on August 9th. “There are a lot of different reasons I joined”, says Natalie. “I enjoy biking, I’ve done triathlons before this and I’ve always dreamed about riding across the country. I interned at the Ulman Cancer Fund two summers ago and I participated in the triathlon, that got me into the biking aspect. The other and most important reason is three of my grandparents have had cancer, one grandmother had breast cancer, the other two had colon cancer. Having them in my life and knowing what they have gone through definitely gets me up the tough hills and helps me face other challenges.”
The challenge for these young adults is not just the ride, but to raise money as well. Everyone who participates is expected to raise $4,500 each. Natalie says her fundraising is at the $6,500 level and these young adults can keep raising dollars while they ride, from people they meet and from those who might be inspired to go online and donate to the cause.
Natalie and friends
You can hear the enthusiasm and purpose in Natalie’s voice as she talks about the ride. “A lot of people consider our journey across the country almost like their fight against cancer,” she says. “Knowing we are fighting right along with them, (on our ride), gets them going especially on the tougher days.”
And there are some tough days. On the two different occasions I spoke to Natalie she was completing rides of 102 miles and then 105 miles in a single day! The riders start early about 5am, have a short window to get their duffel bag and backpack into the van which travels with them, and then for everyone to check their golden treasure…their bike, to make sure it is in proper working order, including brakes and tires, because sometimes things break down.
One of those breakdowns has left an indelible scar on the hearts, minds and souls of all the riders in the 4K for Cancer Cause.
Natalie explains: “On Friday, June 13th, Jamie Roberts was in a tragic accident. She and another girl on Team Portland were hit while changing a tire on the side of the road near Lexington, Kentucky). The other girl was injured and is doing OK, but Jamie was not so fortunate, she did not survive the accident. It has been very difficult for all of the 4K for Cancer teams, but through Jamie’s passing we have a renewed passion for our ride and have grown much closer as a team. We now ride for Jamie and all those she rode for in addition to our own.”
In Honor of Jamie – Team Seattle
It was this turn of events, after my first discussion with Natalie, which led me to postpone the Sunday Series last week, while the riders and their families dealt with the news. All of the riders shut down for 48 hours, in honor of Jamie. Brock Yetso, CEO of the The Ulman Cancer Fund issued this statement: “Jamie’s selflessness, her commitment to serving others and her deep devotion to her friends, family and fellow riders was apparent to everyone who knew her. All of us at the Ulman Cancer Fund extend our deepest condolences to Jamie’s family, whose grief must be boundless at this time. We, and all of our 4K for Cancer riders, will carry Jamie’s memory with us in our hearts as we continue serving the mission that Jamie cared so deeply about.”
Jamie Roberts as Team Portland took a break in Pittsburgh
Natalie says Jamie’s death has drawn everyone on the team closer, if that’s even possible. She says she was “blown away” how close everyone had become even a few days into the ride. The turn of events in the past week has just made that bond even stronger.
The ride continues, though with a heavy heart for the loss of one of their own. But just like the fight against cancer, to give up now would be like giving in. The goal is to finish the ride and improve the lives of young adults battling every day to fight the disease. The slogan for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults: Cancer Changes Lives… So Do WE!
And these brave young adults riding across America are making it happen for their peers, who like the riders, are facing uphill challenges everyday. Those dealing with illness have a destination…to be cancer-free. But unlike those riding cross-country in their honor, these cancer victims are not always sure of the path to get where they want go, it can be scary, uncertain and sometimes result in an untimely end. The riders hope to give these fighters direction, support, hope, encouragement and precious dollars to secure their path to freedom.
If you are so inspired, you can do your part as well. Join Natalie and her team, honor Jamie and her memory and help more than 100 other young riders from Team Seattle, Team San Francisco, Team San Diego and Team Portland, all on a summer tour to help do more: (http://4kforcancer.org/), (http://ulmanfund.org/), (https://www.facebook.com/4kforcancer).
And don’t just take my words for it….you can also follow Natalie’s words on her own blog: (http://nat-attack14.tumblr.com/)
To all those riders making their way along the 4K – G-d’s speed, ride safe, be strong and thanks for being there.
Until next time thanks for taking the time.
Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Emmy Winner
#1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
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