Laredo Native Biking to Alaska
A Laredo native is headed toward Alaska this summer to fight cancer every mile on her bike as a member of the Texas 4000 team.
Nicole Wong is one of 76 students who will depart June 2 on a 70-day ride from Austin to Anchorage, Alaksa. Texas 4000 was formed in 2004 and is the largest student-led charity bike ride, having raised over $7 million for cancer research.
Wong, a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, was inspired to participate in the bike ride after working at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. While at the center, Wong not only had the opportunity to observe operations, she also became involved in the lives of patients.
“Texas 4000 focuses on supporting cancer survivors and funding future cancer research, so seeing there’s an organization out there dedicated to helping these patients, the same ones I got to spend weeks on end with, really motived me,” Wong said.
Leading up to the excursion, students participate in an 18-month program that includes fundraising a minimum of $4,500 and completing 2,000 training miles and 50 hours of community service. En route to Alaska, students lead cancer prevention and detection educational programs in the communities they stop in. Wong recently went on her first 100-mile ride in which she encountered the difficulty of steep hills.
“It was brutal. It was exhausting,” she said. “There’s so many steep hills you have to climb but we have a list of people we ride for. We write their names on our bikes so we can look down to them while biking and it motivates us up those hills. We remember why we’re doing this.”
Before each ride, students gather in a circle to share their ride dedications. Dedications are often made in honor or in memory of a loved one or individuals who has cancer. Wong will be riding for her grandmother and aunt, who are cancer survivors, and a patient she met while working at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“It’s really great starting every practice like that,” she said. “It’s quite an honor to be a part of this organization. The people I’m surrounded with are absolutely inspirational. It’s an amazing opportunity – not just for the team camaraderie, not just to see the U.S. but to spread the mission that we have.”
Written by Andrea Castañeda