Cycling out a message of hope, knowledge and charity

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The 27 Ozarks cyclists of the 2015 Texas 4000 team depart the Border City on Tuesday, and continued their journey on day 46 towards Vegreville, where they will stop for another night.

On day 45, 27 riders of hope, knowledge, and charity rode into the Border City on Monday to spread awareness and raise money for cancer research.

In part of the longest annual charity bicycle ride, and known to be twice as long as the Tour de France, 72 students from The University of Texas in Austin (UT Austin) compile the twelfth Texas 4,000 team. They travel over 4,000 miles in 70 days from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska to support those affected by cancer.

“We are raising money and spreading awareness for cancer research and support services. Our three top pillars are hope, knowledge and charity. We spread hope through our bike ride, we raise money for charity and then the knowledge part comes with our programs where we deliver knowledge about cancer prevention, and awareness to communities we interact with along the way,” said Levi Joseph, member and one of the directors of the group.

The 2015 riders began their journey together on May 30 with a 70-mile bike ride from Cedar Park to Lampasas, Texas called the ATLAS Ride. From there the riders broke off into three groups, Rockies, Sierra, and Ozarks, and continued the ride in hopes of gathering again in Alaska.

According to Joseph, the Sierra group travels up through the Sierra and Nevada mountains on the west coast of America and through British Columbia. The Rockies group travels through the middle of America, through the Rocky Mountains, and through “a little bit of Alberta, through Calgary and through BC. Then the Ozarks group, travel into the Midwest of America, through the Ozarks mountains, through Minnesota, and then we also go through four provinces in Canada.”

“We are on day 45, we are right on track. We have had some weather, but nothing too bad. We ride through everything but lightning. Up in Canada it’s been great. We have loved all of the hosts we’ve stayed with; we got to see Winnipeg, got to go through the Battlefords, and see a little bit of Canadian history. It’s been really great for sure,” Joseph commented on the Ozarks’ journey so far.

The team assembled in Lloydminster to take a break and spend the night. Thanks to local organizer Dick Arie, the team received dinner and breakfast at the Royal Canadian Legion Lloydminster Branch sponsored by the local Rotary club, camped out in Weaver Park, and learned how to drive farming equipment at Agland.

“One of the reasons I really got organized is because my wife is a cancer survivor, so I am very sympathetic for that cause. I also felt the young people who are going (to) ride four thousand miles need all the care they can get. We’ll do whatever we can to support what they are doing, because we do need research money for cancer,” Arie said.

The team mounted their bikes once again on Tuesday morning, heading straight to Vegreville. They ride upwards of 10 miles per hour, and an upwards of 70 to 80 miles per day, in order to stay on course. It is important to the group, according to Joseph, because “many times we have committed to give programs, go on tours or interact with communities, and we want to make sure we are there for our commitments.”

Tess Ortega, a member of the group who rides for her uncle, who is a two time cancer survivor, and a close family friend who just lost the battle says the journey has been more than what she could have imagined.

“The generosity of people that we have come across is probably the most surprising thing. Everywhere we go, every state, every city, every place that we stop in, there is somebody doing something for us, showing their generosity and kindness. Whether it is hosting us for a night, or it’s just when we stop in a gas station, stopping by to ask us what we are doing and sharing their story. It has been amazing.”

She continued to say the greatest thing, to her, about the trip is being able to talk to cancer patients along the way to learn and share their stories, and to take their minds off of things, like cancer, for a bit.

“A good example is when we visited a Texas cancer treatment centre, and met kids who were receiving chemo treatment. We went into the play room, and there was a little boy who didn’t speak a word of English. Earlier we had seen him playing with someone, and he got sick, and he was throwing up in the trash can, which is a (side effect) of the chemo treatment, but 15 minutes later me and another teammate of mine had him laughing hysterically,” she laughed.

“It just goes to show that fun and laughter is a universal language and to be that distraction for a little bit was amazing and (a) hope aspect.”

Joseph says they stop at many cancer support service centres, and organizations including Young Adult Cancer Canada, and hear the stories from both survivors and families who speak of their loved ones.

“It’s honestly incredible to hear their stories. Every day we have ride dedications of the people we meet and we try to think about them as we ride, and every time it is tough for us on the bike we just know there is someone out there we are out there riding and fighting for.”

In order to ride and fight, the team trained for 18 months prior to the campaign, seven of which included upwards of 10 hours of biking a week. The training also included the route planning, a time frame to get to know the people who are riding beside you, some of which who never sat on a bike before, and lastly, gain knowledge about cancer.

“This is a disease and a cause that affects everyone. There is hardly a person that we stop and talk to that does not have some sort of connection with cancer. It goes across race, gender, age that has been affected by cancer. So I think because it is such a universal cause that’s why it is important to us,” Ortega said.

Texas 4000 began 12 years ago when UT Austin student and cancer survivor, Chris Condit, sought a way to share a message of hope, knowledge, and charity to those affected by cancer, according to a media release. Since its implementation, the team has sent out 540 riders, traveled more than two million miles, and has raised over $4.5 million towards cancer research and support programs. The 2015 team has raised almost $700,000 so far.

To learn more about Texas 4000 visit, www.texas4000.org.

Written by Taylor Hermiston

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