Carroll grad bikes from Austin to Alaska to raise money for cancer research
Emily Murphy wants to give.
The 2013 Carroll graduate studies nursing at the University of Texas, which she has come to refer as more of a lifestyle than a curriculum.
But it’s more than that. Murphy wants to use her physical ability and endurance to help others by biking more than 4,000 miles from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska, this summer.
“My Uncle Neil passed away from lung cancer when I was about 9 years old. Since I was so young, I never really got the chance to know him, which is part of the tragedy of cancer,” Murphy said. “Cancer steals away your opportunity to create a bond with someone.”
The annual ride is the cornerstone event for Texas 4000, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating student leaders and engaging communities across the country in the fight against cancer, according to its website.
Texas 4000 awards grants to organizations focused on cancer research and cancer support services. These organizations include MD Anderson Cancer Center, LIVESTRONG Foundation, UT Department of Biomedical Engineering and Brent’s Place.
Seventy riders ride for about 70 days through the country. Murphy is about of a 24-person team biking the Sierra route, one of three riders could choose. The team started training last October.
“It took about six months to complete the 2,000 training miles,” she said. “The Austin cycling community feels like a family.”
The Sierra route will traverse the southwestern part of the country, including West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Nevada before going north to California, Oregon and Washington and into British Columbia and the Yukon, according to the organization’s website.
Murphy met her first goal of raising $4,500 last summer and then hit a second milestone by raising $10,000 by April. She will continue to fundraise for cancer research and programs until September.
While completing what is considered the longest annual charity bike ride in the world, the riders stop in various cities along the route to share a message of cancer prevention and early detection tips through educational programs.
“We’ve stayed with families in neighborhoods, in churches, in high school gyms and cabins,” Murphy said. “They provide dinner and breakfast for us most of the time, which helps fuel us through the next day. Just having a place to set up a sleeping bag helps us get a good night’s rest.”
The riders teach simple techniques to reduce cancer risk such as wearing sunscreen snf sun protective clothing, identifying possibly cancerous moles, living a tobacco-free lifestyle and getting tested for the (human papillomavirus) vaccine, she said.
“We also share our personal connections with cancer to illustrate the importance of these techniques,” she added.
Another reason to ride is Emily’s father, Sean, who was affected by the death of his brother. Murphy called her father a role model and said she rides for his continued suffering.
“The day of my uncle’s death was the first time I ever saw my dad cry,” Murphy said.
Sean Murphy was initially surprised when his daughter told him that she was riding for 10 weeks across the U.S. He said that Murphy riding in her uncle’s memory is special to him.
“She not only rides for myself and Neil, but through fundraising efforts, she has encountered a lot of people who donate and ask her to dedicate a ride day to a family member or friend who fought cancer or a cancer survivor,” Sean Murphy said. “It was an eye-opener for us on the number of people whose lives are touched by cancer in some form.”
Sean and his wife, Carol, hear from their daughter about once a day with an text message in the evening. They talk to her once a week to “see how she’s surviving.”
“She is a young lady who has always wanted to do things in service of others,” Sean Murphy said. “It has been a pleasant experience to watch her grow the last 18 months that she’s been involved in Texas 4000.”
During this journey, Emily Murphy encourages her hometown of Corpus Christi to share its personal cancer stories with her. The stories are then shared in ride dedications and added to her list of reasons to ride.
“Ride dedications are a tradition we do at the beginning of every ride, and it reminds us why we ride and who we ride for,” she said. “August 7 would have been my Uncle Neil’s 64th birthday, so I’m planning on making a special ride dedication for my uncle that day because it’s a very meaningful day for my dad and me.”
Texas 4000 was founded in 2004 by Chris Condit, a cancer survivor. That first year, student riders presented a check to the American Cancer Society for $112,000. More than $7 million has been raised since.
Murphy’s team has raised about $640,168 out of a $750,000 goal. She would like to raise at least $15,000 personally by the ride’s end on Aug. 11.
To share your story with Murphy, email her at email@example.com.