From Texas to Alaska
RAWLINS – Twenty-three undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Texas in Austin arrived in Rawlins Tuesday evening at the First United Methodist Church, a stop during a cross-country bike trip.
The students are a few of the 72 who are participating in the “longest annual charity bicycle ride in the world” where they ride 4,000 miles from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska, according to a Texas 4000 press release.
“Everybody riding is doing it for someone fighting cancer or who has fought cancer,” UT student Sai Gourisankar said. “Every person has their own personal story.”
Texas 4000 started in 2004 when Chris Condit, a UT student and cancer survivor, “sought a way to share a message of hope, knowledge and charity to those with cancer,” a press release stated. Texas 4000 is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to cultivating student leaders and engaging communities in the fight against cancer.”
The students left May 29, riding for individuals they knew who were currently suffering from cancer or who had passed away from cancer.
“I’m riding for my stepdad’s first wife,” UT student Bevin Baughn said. “She’s the mother of my stepsiblings who took me in as one of their own when our families joined.”
Another UT student, Olivia Starich, said she was riding for her childhood next-door neighbor who played a role in her life.
Before leaving Texas, the students had to train in order to make it the 4,000 miles in 70 days.
Baughn said all the participants began with Saturday workouts in the fall focusing on cardio and building core muscles. They were also encouraged to workout on their own throughout the week.
In October, each participant received their bikes and began riding at least 20 miles every Saturday. As training went out, they boosted their mileage in five-mile increments.
Students also got to choose what route to travel with a choice of going through the Sierra, the Rocky Mountains or the Ozarks.
While Baughn chose the Rocky Mountain route because it had the most stops of places she had never been to, Starich chose it because “the Rockies are near and dear to (her) heart.”
Gourisankar chose the route because a donor promised to give a “large sum” if he rode the route.
Throughout the ride, the students have had many experiences.
Gourisankar said the “hardest experience so far” was Father’s Day because a few people on the ride are riding for their fathers.
“I felt kind of guilty for being able to text and call my dad that day,” Baughn said in agreement.
Starich said she has had many experiences connecting with strangers.
“They all have their own story of somebody they know who has had cancer affect their lives,” Starich said. “They’ve been so helpful. I’m floored by their generosity.”
Baughn said they have also had many experiences with connecting with cancer survivors on their rest days. In addition to connecting with people, the students use their rest days to give presentations about their cause and cancer awareness.
The students left Rawlins Wednesday morning headed to Lander to continue their journey and to share their experiences with more individuals.
To learn more about the people that make up the 2015 Texas 4000 team, to make a donation or to read the riders’ blogs, visitwww.texas4000.org.
Donations go toward financially supporting Texas 4000 and awarding grants to organizations with a focus on cancer research or cancer support services.
“Cancer affects so many people,” Gourisankar said. “We’re riding for them.”
Written by Emma Diercks
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