Cancer bicycle ride to stop in Brainerd

A herd of bicyclists speaking with a Texas twang will descend upon Pillsbury State Forest next week as part of a charity ride.

The Texas 4000 team will arrive at Pillsbury State Forest Monday on their way from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska.

During their local stop, members of the team will speak about the fight against cancer before continuing on their 70-day, 4,000-mile journey.

The team is made up of 72 undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Texas at Austin who will brave rain, sleet, wind, snow and heat along their journey.

After 18 months of leadership development training, volunteering, fundraising and cycling, riders are put to the test throughout their summer ride to Alaska. Along their journey, they will visit with cancer survivors, patients, caregivers and communities to make educational presentations about cancer prevention and early detection.

They also use this time to offer hope and encouragement and share their personal stories to cancer fighters of all ages and to those who have been affected by the disease. Every encounter is an inspirational story the riders carry with them on their journey and quest to fight cancer.

“This ride comes with some obvious physical demands and perhaps less than obvious emotional demands,” said Texas 4000 executive director, Jen Thomas. “It’s incredibly encouraging for the riders to be supported by the people of Pillsbury State Forest and have the opportunity to share their stories about how they pursue this ride in hopes of living in a cancer-free society.”

The 2015 riders, the 12th team since Texas 4000’s inception in 2004, began their journey in Austin on May 30 with a 70-mile community bike ride called the ATLAS Ride from Cedar Park to Lampasas, Texas. From there, the riders separate into three routes, Rockies, Sierra, and Ozarks, as they continue on a ride twice as long as the Tour de France.

“This ride serves as a metaphor for the difficult battle cancer patients wage each day: A long and difficult road, with hard days and easier ones, good days, and not so good day,” said Levi Joseph, a ride director for the Ozarks route. “This is a difficult trip for me on many levels, but I have known so many people with cancer who bravely, fiercely and with determination, fought this awful disease. I ride for those people. Thinking of them is what literally gets me up the next hill or mountain.”

Texas 4000 began 12 years ago when Chris Condit, a UT-Austin student and cancer survivor, sought a way to share a message of hope, knowledge and charity to those with cancer. Since then, Texas 4000 has sent more than 540 riders on their bicycles, traveling more than two million miles to honor those affected by cancer.

Collectively, these riders have raised more than $4.5 million in the fight against cancer, funding cancer research projects at MD Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas Biomedical Engineering Department, and survivorship programs such as the LIVESTRONG Navigation Services Center. Students have the opportunity to serve on a grantmaking committee upon their return from the summer ride, helping to determine where a portion of their hard-earned fundraising dollars will be contributed.

“If any message should be endorsed, it is that the fight against cancer cannot be won alone,” Garza said. “A disease this broad that spans so many lives and all ages, ethnicities, races, and genders requires the persistent strength, support, and knowledge of the entire community to overcome.”

To learn more about the people that make up the 2015 Texas 4000 team, to make a donation or to read the riders’ blogs, visit www.texas4000.org.

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