Support cancer-fighting cyclists

On nights when my dreams ring in crystal clear, I sometimes awaken from scenes so vivid that I swear I can smell the unique aroma of cigarette smoke, coffee bubbling in a dinged-up percolator and squirrel dumplings simmering on the kitchen stove as my grandmother’s raspy voice sings out across a kitchen table littered with cheap paperback Harlequins, western novels and pink vanilla wafers.

And when I wake up I remember: She’s long gone. Leukemia took her too early – more than a decade ago – along with so many others that year. But those lingering memories still feel like the epitome of home, happiness, safety and of unconditional love that I’ve yet to see matched as I travel through life.

Cancer is a killer that almost no one escapes. If you aren’t one of the 1.65 million people to be diagnosed or 589,000 expected to die this year from the disease, chances are you know and love someone who will.

In the 14 years since my grandmother’s death, I can’t help but notice the way people chip in to help “fight” the disease has changed over time. Some folks attend bake sales and spaghetti feeds or Relays for Life, but a lot of donation now is done over the computer, with the click of a button, through organizations like GoFundMe. It’s gotten so easy to help, to sit at home, and to never interact, while feeling like you’ve done something, which is why a group called Texas 4,000 continues to simply amaze me.

Since 2004, dozens of University of Texas students have biked more than 4,000 miles from their campus in Austin to Anchorage, Alaska. I first became acquainted with the group during freshman year in 2010 as the tireless group members canvassed the western mall what seemed like every day, trying to get volunteers.

The task seemed daunting. Every rider has to enter an intensive 18-month training program that enables them to ride as much as 100 miles per day. They must attend weekly meetings to help plan the trip, and raise $4,500 each – one dollar for every mile ridden. This year the group is taking three different routes to Anchorage, with a team goal to raise $800,000 by the ride’s end for cancer research and support services. As of June 26 they had raised $652,824, about 82 percent of their total. And the last task is to complete the ride, more than 4,000 long and hard miles through the Rocky, Sierra, or Ozark Mountains.

To commit to that 70-day journey, to put in that sweat and time, to put a healthy body through those tribulations in hopes of making a sick one well, is a tremendous task that is still a bit incomprehensible to me though I’ve seen several friends and classmates do it. It never stops being astonishing. And so, I, like so many who have seen them trekking across the United States, will watch in awe and try and contribute something when these kind and determined souls trek through the Seeley-Swan this week. In my case it will likely be by bringing snacks for an old college dorm mate and her friends, a small donation, and endless cheers. But there are other ways to help.

The Rockies Texas 4,000 group will rest in Bigfork on July 4. If you see them, encouragement and donations are welcome. But if you don’t, don’t worry, they have literally already done all the legwork. You can log onto to contribute and to learn more about each of the riders from the comforts of home, all with the click of a button.

Written by Megan Strickland


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