- Route: Ozarks
- Ride Year: 2014
- Hometown: Austin, TX
- School Year: Junior
- Major: Neuroscience and Psychology
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi, everyone (note: I may be a native Texan, but I do not condone the use of y’all)! My name is Kevin Helgren and I was born in Austin, Texas on July 7th, 1993. I am the son of Sarah and Cory; the grandson of Rachel, Kenny, Kathy and Bob; and the brother of a 4 pound teacup chihuahua named Camden. My childhood was defined by Saturday afternoons at the baseball diamond and by picking blackberries in the garden on Sunday mornings. Unfortunately, life got a little more complicated when I hit middle school – then again, whose middle school years weren’t awkward? In sixth grade I was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, which altered my life in more ways than one.
My time in middle school was lined with awkward encounters and uncomfortable experiences. I was the kid who walked along the very edge of the hallways in an attempt to avoid interacting with others by all means necessary. Fortunately for me, however, a wonderful opportunity presented itself prior to my high school years when my parents told me that we were moving school districts. From that point forward, I was determined to embark upon an entirely new journey with a new outlook on life.
To ensure the attainment of my goal, I threw myself into the spotlight on day one. I served as Drum Major of the marching band my junior and senior years; as a class officer my freshman, sophomore and junior years; and as the student body president my senior year. I was also involved in theatre and a number of academic organizations. In addition to my extra-curricular commitments, I challenged myself academically as an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma student. The friendships and memories that I made throughout my time at Anderson High School will undoubtedly remain with me – as a source of inspiration – for the rest of my life.
I am a first-year student at the University of Texas at Austin pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with aspirations of obtaining a dual degree in Neuroscience and a minor in Spanish, all while playing the mellophone in the Longhorn Band! After graduation I plan on attending medical school and pursuing a career in neurology in an effort to give back to the community that has so selflessly accepted me for who I am. I’m ready to do my part.
Why I Ride
Cancer is a terrible thing that claims the lives of over half a million people annually in the United States alone. What cancer isn’t aware of, however, is the fact that we – you and I – are ready to fight. No one should ever have to fight alone.
My grandfather (better known as Papa amongst the family), Kenneth Helgren, lost his battle with Myelodysplasia – a precursor of Leukemia – on October 13th, 2011 at 60 years young. My Papa lived in a little white house in Elgin, Texas right next to an old Native American Indian reservation. On Sunday afternoons, he would take my cousins and me out to the empty field and look for arrowheads to add to his collection. After we had expended all of our energy, we would go inside and snack on the freshly picked blackberries that we had retrieved from his garden before church that morning while he sat in his chair and stroked a blank canvas delicately with his favorite paintbrush. Once per month my grandfather would take all of the grandchildren to the San Antonio Zoo. The ride was accompanied by his one-of-a-kind CD collection, complete with fifty separate frog sounds, each of which he could name; and the original Footloose album. We would have to set aside an entire day for the trip because he insisted upon stopping at each and every exhibit to take a plethora of pictures; and upon reading the biographical information for each species we encountered. As I grew older, the arrowhead hunting ceased and the zoo trips gradually became extinct; his love for me, however, only grew stronger. As his oldest grandchild, he was my biggest fan. I cannot recall a single band concert, baseball game, or awards ceremony that he didn’t attend. He would stand at the back of the auditorium or at the top of the bleachers and whistle loudly when my name was called; and when he wasn’t whistling, he was taking countless pictures that would undoubtedly end up in his scrapbook within the week. My Papa and I spent countless nights staying up way too late playing Monopoly, watching Star Trek and coloring in our Yogi Bear coloring books. He was diagnosed with Myleodysplasia in 2008 – though my mom told me that something was wrong with my Papa’s blood, I never really understood the severity of the situation. As time went by, I didn’t think much of it until I received a phone call during school in mid-October of 2011 – it was my mom’s voice on the other end, almost unrecognizable due to muffled crying.
As I sat next to his bed in the hospital, my hand in his, I reminded him of all the wonderful things we had experienced together. He may not have been able to respond verbally, but I could tell that he was listening. As painful as it is to reflect upon the many memories that my Papa and I made together, I find comfort in knowing that he, too, has the luxury of reminiscing in such happy thoughts. My grandfather – an elite artist; an avid photographer; an exceptional leader; and a genuine human being – fought until the very end. Kenneth Helgren was – and always will be – the most sincere and humble person I have ever known, and I am so incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to call him my grandfather. He may have lost the battle, but he undoubtedly won the war. Get ready, Papa – we’re going to Alaska!