- Route: Ozarks
- Ride Year: 2014
- Hometown: Spring, TX
- School Year: Senior
- Major: Nutritional Sciences
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shortly prior to my sixth birthday, I moved to the United States from my home in Mexico City. My mom, my brother, and I left behind the entire Loza clan, our whole lives, in search of a better life and education in the beautiful city of Spring in north Houston. A lot has happened since then. Over time, Texas gradually began to feel like my home, so much so that I couldn’t imagine ever leaving when the time to apply for college drew near. My two little dogs and I made the big move to Austin, where we have come to enjoy walks on Town Lake and other simple pleasures the Capital City affords. I began and ended my career as a soccer player, where a call up to the Mexican youth national team was the peak. I took up a whistle and a flag to become a referee nearly seven years ago. I work my hardest to serve the game with honesty and generosity. I throw myself completely into achieving any goal I set but I’ve both traveled with purpose and roamed without reason. I’ve had the privilege of being able to adventure and stumble, knowing there would always be someone there to help me keep my balance. My name has been associated with several titles, such as Drum Captain of the Klein Collins percussion section, Texas Iron Chef (after my winning culinary debut), even Coach (a personal favorite, especially when it comes out an 8-year-old’s mouth). My interests have been many, ranging from film to board games to kayaking and I am always ready to embark on new exploits. There’s never been a stranger I haven’t been curious to meet and I am always looking to add new members to my ever-growing family of friends. On campus, I am involved in Camp Texas, the UT Steel Pan Ensemble, the UT Handball team, training the Intramural Soccer officials, the Food Studies Project, and the Freshman Leadership Organization as a mentor. At present, I am studying Nutrition with a focus on business with the hope of going to culinary school upon graduation. I don’t know what the future has in store for me, all I hope is to be unreasonably happy and remain a hopeless romantic despite the hardships life may present.
Why I Ride
My greatest blessing in life is my own good health and health of those closest to me. I have been fortunate that my family tree hasn’t been tainted by cancer’s poison. Not too long ago, I knew only survivors. I would give everything for that to still be true. I admired their courage and strength, constantly in awe of their ability to keep living after the unspeakable pain they had to endure. I knew they had gone to hell and back, locked in battle, but I didn’t fully understand the fight till Jake the Hero came into my life, snazzy guns blazing, and stole my heart. Here was this beautifully silly, perfect seven year old boy with award-winning hugs that had his whole life ahead of him. He loved the marshmallows in Lucky Charms, M&M’s, and Super Heroes. He lived a normal life, not knowing a cancerous tumor was growing in his brain until he collapsed one day. He was diagnosed with Gliomatosis Cerebri, a cancer terminal upon diagnosis. The doctors gave him six months to a year, where every moment of every day would be a fight for another tomorrow. Jake wasn’t the type to give up though, even against impossible odds. He took the treatment without complaint, often with a silly smile on his face, and shared his love with everyone around him. In the worrying darkness and uncertainty, he was the light. After the doctors had done everything in the book, the only stone left unturned was a costly experimental treatment in Germany. In just a couple of days, a community of his friends and family raised $25,000 for this purpose. He and his mom flew half a world away on a hope and a prayer while the rest of us held our breaths. After some initial improvement, Jake’s condition worsened markedly and the only concern was getting him home to say goodbye. A private, medical flight was the only option but the price stood at a seemingly insurmountable $57,000. A campaign unlike anything I have ever seen began. Emails, tweets, posts, calls, anything and everything we could think of to get donations. People gave what they could or prayed if they couldn’t. The money way raised almost overnight, not by known philanthropists or organizations, but in $5s, $10s, and $20s, by a community of people who wanted to give Jake’s father one last of those hugs by our little Super Hero. In the end, he died in Germany in his mother’s arms, a year and four days after he had been diagnosed. I was left with an empty feeling. I can’t sit back and watch this disease continue to cause the premature death of so many. Jake never got to ask a girl to prom. He never got to get embarrassed by a bad picture in the Yearbook. He never got to do the happy dance upon opening his first college acceptance letter. Nothing makes me sadder than knowing there is nothing I can do to change that. But now I understand the impact a small group of determined people can have. I want to fight alongside those who have to fight cancer. I want to fight for those who cancer left behind. I want to fight for those who have to live in the absence of their loved ones. I want to fight so that future generations won’t have to. Life is worth a noble motive. Fighting this horrible disease is mine.
I ride for my mom and my brother because just thinking about them fills me with strength. When a task seems daunting or I’m afraid, I know I can count on their unconditional support, belief, and even humor to get me through the day. I ride, in part, because I don’t know what I would do without them but mostly I ride because I know there are people that are forced to learn how to be without the people they love.
I ride for my Hero, Jake Grecco. I ride in honor of those who have died and to give hope to those who have the courage to continue living in their absence.
I ride for my friend, Barry Sherry, one of the bravest men I know. Though he is a survivor, he has kept fighting with admirable strength and has been my inspiration to join the cause. I ride with his passion and conviction in my heart to try and affect others as he has affected me.
I ride for you, each and every one of you reading this, wherever you may be, because your story and the unique gifts you bring to this world matter. Because you are loved and absolutely worth fighting for. You will be in my thoughts in every mile, on every day.