- Route: Ozarks
- Ride Year: 2020
- Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
- School Year: Junior
- Major: Journalism
- Email: [email protected]
About: Hi there! I’m currently pursuing a degree in Journalism at the Moody College of Communication here at UT Austin. For the past two years, I’ve spent nearly every morning waking up at 5am to row on Ladybird Lake with my teammates on Texas Crew. When I’m not catching up on sleep from the early practices, I’m discovering new music, watching film and listening to podcasts, or spending time with my friends!
Why I Ride
Why hop on a bike in Texas and ride all the way to Alaska? Here’s why:
From ages 3 to 19, I grew up in the small town of Grandview Heights, outside of Columbus, Ohio. Most of the kids I graduated high school with were the same kids with whom I began kindergarten. Everyone in my town either knows everyone else, or knows someone who does. So, as you could imagine, when tragedies strike a community of just 7,500 people, they affect everyone deeply.
During the fall of his freshman year of college, my family friend Haden DeRoberts was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. After thinking he was merely coming down with mono or the flu, he was told of his diagnosis by his doctors at the James Cancer Institute. They told Haden that without receiving a bone marrow transplant, he would have only months to live. Haden was lucky to receive a bone marrow match from an anonymous donor. This surgery, and the quality of care which he received at the James, prolonged his life for just over five years, while he remained in remission. But in December of 2016, after numerous complications and challenges, Haden lost his battle and passed away due to failing lungs resulting from complications from Graft Versus Host Disease. Haden was an amazing young man, full of spirit, humor and joy. Throughout his illness, Haden combined his love of music and thanks for his life-extending-transplant by traveling to dozens of music festivals as a representative of the Love, Hope, and Strength Foundation, registering as many bone marrow donors as possible. While Haden was considerably older, I was fortunate to get to know him near the end of his life and as a result of his mother Janet’s friendship with my parents. The brave and loving manner in which Haden and Janet traversed those final years taught me a lot about adversity and grace.
In July 2013, cancer again touched my life when my pre-calculus teacher, Steve Hall, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Mr. Hall was much more than just a teacher in my school district, though. With two children in middle school and high school at the time, Mr. Hall was extremely involved in the community, serving as the girls tennis coach for 16 seasons, and later the girls basketball coach for 12 seasons. While I was neither a tennis or basketball player, I got to know Mr. Hall best in pre-calculus class. My sophomore year, just over a year after his original diagnosis, and following several months of aggressive treatment, Mr. Hall was still teaching. Despite everything he and his family were going through, he still came into the classroom every morning with a smile on his face. That winter, however, Mr. Hall unfortunately lost his battle against cancer.
Both Haden and Mr. Hall have inspired me to become a better person, to be more thankful for the time I have on this planet, and to give back where I can. I ride for Mr. Hall, Haden, and his mother Janet, who has become be like an older sister to me, as well as all of the others who have fought and who continue to fight this fight.
In addition to the 4,500 mile trek, I plan to document my ride on social media in order to honor the lives of all of the loved ones who have battled cancer and in whose name you may choose to donate. While not a requirement to donate, if you would like, please feel free to send a photo of the person or persons on whose behalf you are making a donation, and with your permission I will carry their photos with me on my journey and in my heart, and will acknowledge on one of the days of my ride on Facebook and Instagram. Together we will honor their legacy while helping to ensure that one day we will find a cure to this horrible disease.