Texas 4000 Rides to Whitecourt

The Gozark 2013 team from the Texas 4000 charity ride stopped in Whitecourt on July 16. The team is fundraising money for cancer research and each rider is required to raise $4,500.

Students from the University of Texas passed through Whitecourt on July 16, 2013 while on the Texas 4000 charity bicycle ride. On their journey they will travel approximately 4,500 miles, beginning on June 1, in Austin, Texas and ending on Aug. 9, in Achorage, Alaska.

Three teams departed from Texas for this event taking three different routes. The team that passed through Whitecourt is the Gozarks team.

Each rider is responsible for fundraising $4,500 which is approximately one dollar for every mile they travel. The money will be donated to MD Anderson Research in Houston, Texas, Livestrong Navigation in Austin, Texas and University of Texas biomedical engineering.

This leg of their journey started in Edmonton and ended in Whitecourt. The group met at the Allan & Jean Millar Centre where they had a press conference with MLA George VanderBurg and Mayor Trevor Thain. The Rotary Club arranged home-stays for the students with local families.

The riders sat down in a conference room at the Millar Centre and began to introduce themselves in turn. Part of the introductions also included their personal experience, or lack of, with cancer.

“The reason I joined was for my dad. He passed away when I was 16, not from cancer, he died from a heart attack. He lost his father when he was younger as well and he was just my best friend and losing him was so hard. When I heard about Texas 4000 and the way it reaches people across the country, I knew it was something I wanted to do. That’s why I’m here,” Tina Beigelbeck from Petaluma, Calif., said.

One by one the students shared their personal stories, some motivated by their past experiences and some driven by their hopes for the future. Even though the team has been doing this routine since June 1, their personal stories still evoked emotions amongst them.

By the end of the introductions, one team member was left in tears.

VanderBurg and Thain welcomed the riders to Whitecourt.

“We’re really looking forward to hosting you in our homes and sharing some stories with you as well. Your ride is no different than what many of us do in our own communities. It’s really exciting to have you here,” VanderBurg said.

Collyn Cooper from Baton Rouge, La. is currently studying American studies at the University of Texas.

“The kids that I saw participating were some of the neatest people I’ve ever seen and their passion to do something a lot bigger than themselves is really inspiring,” Cooper said.

Like many riders, Cooper was one of the fortunate ones to not have been affected by cancer going into the ride.

While cancer was not a challenge that Cooper had to face, the daunting journey of 4,500 miles on a bicycle was.

“I wasn’t an athlete and no one here was a cyclist before we joined the organization, so it’s very much the impossible for us, much like someone’s battle with cancer,” Cooper said.

Riders received their cycles in October 2012 and began training for the journey. Each rider had to log 1,500 miles before their journey.

Jim Ferguson, President of the Rotary Club in Whitecourt, took part in organizing home-stays for the riders. Cooper stayed with Elaine and Arnie Olexan.

“The guests said it was their best stay since they left Texas and the best food. They were very happy to get a bed, shower, anything to eat or drink,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said that this is not something the club has ever done is the past but he was very pleased with the results and hopes they will return in future years.

“Cancer will be defeated through research and we’re happy to help make their lives a little bit easier as they do this wonderful great deed. Rotary’s out there to make the world better for everyone… We want to be considered every year from now on,” Ferguson said.

By Christopher King