Clear Creek High School grad biking to Alaska to raise money for cancer researchBy KRISTI NIX
School may be out, but University of Texas student Akanksha Verma won’t be found sunning at the beach. Hometown friends won’t run into her at the movies or find her working a part-time job this summer. Instead, Verma dedicated her time off to participate in the Texas 4000, a 4,500-mile fundraising bike ride to for cancer research.
Verma, a 2009 graduate of Clear Lake High School, is one of 69 UT students who are spending roughly 70 days to ride from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska as part of the Texas 4000, which is celebrating its tenth year.
Along the way, Verma and other riders will travel in three separate teams north across the United States and into Canada, stopping in about 70 cities along the way. The teams spend their evenings camping out, sleeping in gyms or staying with host families.
Another aspect of the Texas 4000 involves efforts to help raise awareness. In some of the communities they visit riders also work as volunteers; making educational presentations about cancer prevention, visiting with cancer survivors and sharing their stories with those currently battling cancer.
“This ride comes with some obvious physical demands and perhaps less than obvious emotional demands,” said Texas 4000 Executive Director, Jen Garza in a release. “It’s incredibly encouraging for the riders to be supported by the people of all the way on their routes, and have the opportunity to share their stories about how they pursue this ride in hopes of living in a cancer-free society.”
Part of Verma’s inspiration to participate in the ride was her best friend from high school who lost her father to cancer. In a video posted on the Texas 4000 website, she talks about the experience.
“At that time it wasn’t something I could help her through, because I didn’t know how to talk to her,” she said in the video. “I would also talk to her about something else and never about that. Through this experience, I’ve learned it’s ok to talk about cancer.
“When I first went to a (Texas 4000) meeting, it was really inspiring to see so many people talk about their loved ones so openly. (I was inspired) to see that they can share and it’s not a burden that they’re sharing their pain,” she said. “It’s not to say they it’s a burden, but rather that it’s an inspiration to say that people are fighting every day; to say they’ve done it; why can’t we? It’s an inspiration to say we can reach Alaska and move on and to say we can cure cancer.”
Texas 4000 was founded 10 years ago by University of Texas student and cancer-survivor Chris Condit as a way to share a message of hope, knowledge and charity to those with cancer. In the years since then, the event has raised more than $4 million for cancer research projects at MD Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas Biomedical Engineering Department, and survivorship programs such as the LIVESTRONG Navigational Services Center.
For more information about the Texas 4000, to make a donation or to read Verma’s blog, visit www.texas4000.org