HMK Alumnus trekking for a cure

Genaro

The Relay for Life event may be over, but the fight for those who have cancer is far from being done.

One H.M. King High School alumnus and Kingsville native will spend his summer trekking from Austin to Alaska to raise money for cancer research, spread awareness and inspire hope to those still fighting. Genaro DeLeon, a 2013 graduate of H.M. King High School, was selected to participate in the Texas 4000 for Cancer and will spend 70 days this summer traveling by bike.

The Texas 4000 is an organization at the University of Texas at Austin that raises funds for cancer research by bicycle riding throughout the country. It is also completely led by UT students, DeLeon said. DeLeon is studying biochemistry at the university.

“I heard about the organization from upperclassman in the scholarship program who had done the ride in previous years,” DeLeon said.

DeLeon said he felt compelled to apply for the organization because his father and grandmother both had cancer. His father, Genaro, was diagnosed several years ago with a gastrointestinal stromal tu-

mor, a rare form of cancer. Though his father has been cancer free for six years, his grandmother fell victim to breast cancer.

“Being a part of the organization and their mission to spread hope, knowledge and charity, really hit home for me and made me want to apply,” he said.

DeLeon then applied to be a Texas 4000 rider in Fall 2014. The application process to be a rider is competitive, he said.

“About 200 to 300 students apply, and from that, 100 will be chosen to interview, and then about 70 will be chosen to ride each year,” DeLeon said.

Part of the application process is sharing with the selection committee a personal statement of why they ride.

In DeLeon’s personal statement, he wrote that he would ride for his dad, his grandma, and for one of his elementary school teachers who passed away from cancer.

“I ride for them, and for all those who I’ve come in contact with who have or had cancer,” DeLeon said.

The selected students are filtered into groups of 25 for three routes – the Sierra route, which goes through West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Nevada before traveling north through California, and British Columbia; the Rockies, where riders will ride by the Rocky Mountains through the country and into Canada; and the Ozarks, which crosses through the Midwest and Canada.

All routes lead to Alaska, which is approximately 4,500 miles away from Austin, DeLeon said.

To prepare for the Texas 4000, riders must clock in 2,000 training miles and raise $4,500 to match for each mile of the journey. The funds raised during the Texas 4000 go toward research grants and hospitals, such as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, or to support the families of cancer patients.

Along with fundraising, DeLeon will also have the opportunity to share his story with others. The riders will stop at community centers and hospitals along their routes to speak to cancer patients and listen to their stories.

“By learning other people’s stories, we’re inspiring them and letting them know that there are other people who care and have experienced it in our lives as well,” DeLeon said. “We’re supporting them through our journey through Alaska as they journey through their fight against cancer.”

The most important part of the journey, he said, is reminding those who have cancer – and their families – that they are not alone.

“There’s people out there – not just doctors – (who) are raising funds to end cancer,” DeLeon said. “We’re trying to end it before it happens.”

As of press time, DeLeon has raised $4,155 out of $4,500 for Texas 4000. To help DeLeon reach his goal, go to Texas4000.0rg. Readers may also follow his journey this summer by reading his journal on the website.

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Written by Amber Aldaco.