Northbrook college student to bike more than 4,000 miles next summer to fight cancer

Northbrook native Shawn Killian is ambitiously seeking to honor his next-door neighbor, Linzey Wilson, who died in 2007 of a brain tumor at the age of 16.

Currently a student at the University of Texas at Austin, Killian plans to join other University of Texas students next summer for Texas 4000, a bike journey of more than 4,000 miles from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska, to help raise money for cancer research.

On June 26, Killian, a 2014 Glenbrook North High School graduate, hosted the 2015 Texas 4000 team at his Northbrook home when the team stopped through the Chicago area.

“It was neat to have my family meet the team,” said Killian, adding that his neighbors helped with providing the 27 guests with a place to stay.

“They were gracious enough to offer up their living room,” he said.

Killian said after a 4 a.m. pancake breakfast on June 28, the team headed down to Millennium Park before continuing their 70-day bike journey, heading toward Milwaukee.

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“The whole journey from here to Alaska has just been incredible,” said Tatiana Jessen of the Houston area, who began the journey with the rest of the team on May 29. “It feels surreal.”

Killian said participating in the Texas 4000 has been an ambition of his since he began as a freshman at the University of Texas. He said he’d always wanted to honor his childhood friend, whose family was like a second family to him while growing up.

“She (Linzey) had a brain tumor wrapped around her brain stem,” he explained. “The reason I ride is for her. She fought 10 years with it and she just kept on fighting. My grandfather was also recently diagnosed.”
Riding a bike for more than 4,000 miles, however, takes lots of preparation, Killian said. Training, volunteer hours and grassroots fundraising are all part of a process to prepare for the ride. Through public awareness and advocacy, Killian is required to raise a minimum of $4,500 by next spring, but he is aiming higher.

“My personal goal is $10,000,” he said.

As part of his fundraising, Killian said he hopes to host an event in late July on the Northbrook Village Green that would feature food from local restaurants, live music and public awareness of how cancer affects so many.

“I’d just like to get the community together,” he said.

Public speaking, letter-writing campaigns and other forms of community engagement are endeavors that all Texas 4000 participants take part in before their journeys, Killian said.

Jessen said Texas 4000 was started in 2004 by Chris Condit, then a student at the University of Texas at Austin and a survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma. Since 2004, she said, Texas 4000 has raised $4.5 million toward cancer research.

Jessen said she is participating in the 2015 Texas 4000 ride to honor loved ones who have been affected by cancer.

“All of us have been touched by cancer to some degree,” she said.

Throughout the 70-day ride, Jessen explained, the team stays at recreational centers, campgrounds or at the homes of host families. She said the journey is made up of three routes, one that travels through the Ozarks and the Midwest, one that bikes along the Rocky Mountains and one that journeys along the west coast.

“We all start together and then split up and meet back up in Anchorage,” Jessen said.

The 2015 fundraising goal for Texas 4000 is $800,000. So far, Killian said, the team has raised about $655,000.

Early on the morning of June 28, after spending a weekend in the Chicago area, the 2015 Texas 4000 riders left Millennium Park on their bikes for a journey that will take them through Minnesota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon and finally into Alaska in early August.

Jessen said she was pleased the team took a break last weekend in Chicago, a city she had never before seen.

“It’s really beautiful,” she said. “I think it’s an amazing city.”

Written by Bridget O’Shea

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