- Route: Ozarks
- Ride Year: 2023
- Hometown: Chicago, IL + Calgary, Canada
- School Year: Senior
- Major: Sociology, English & Creative Writing
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
My name is Bella Mendes, and I am from nowhere and everywhere; I was born in the electric city of Calgary, Canada, spent a short stint in Houston,TX, lived as a British citizen in London for 8 foundational years, and rounded up my high school career in Wilmette, IL, at the high school that was the inspiration behind the movie Mean Girls. My parents moved to Phoenix, AZ in 2022, but I still call Chicago my home, and that is one of the main reasons why I am on the Ozarks Route.
I am in my final years as an undergrad student at UT, and I would love to pursue a career in publishing after receiving an MFA in creative writing (hopefully). Eventually, I would love to make my way back into the nonprofit realm and put my sociology degree to good use. I am drawn to Sociology and its analysis of society, and that realm works well in coherence with my passion for reading books and watching movies as a way to learn more about people and society. If you ever need a book or movie recommendation, my Goodreads and letterboxd are updated regularly. I'm a massive Stephen King fan, so if you get me talking, chances are that you will find out about my obsession with The Shining, both the book and the movie but for different reasons. My favorite band is The Red Hot Chili Peppers whom I saw live in 2022, and was able to live out mine (and my parent's) rock concert dream!
Enough about me; let’s talk about my dog now. Annie is the light of my life and my forever companion; what started as a search for an emotional support animal ended up with me finding companionship in the most high-energy dog- from who I may or may not have separation anxiety. I love to talk about Annie and she is always willing to make new friends (if you want to meet her, we’re at Shoal Creek every day)! I'll take every opportunity I can to talk about her, and I can't wait for her to get to know my teammates better.
I am so excited to embark on this challenge of biking to Alaska with my teammates in honor of my grandpa, so if there is anyone you would like me to ride for, don’t hesitate to reach out. As I reflect on when I wrote this bio, so much has changed. We are in the thick of training, and things are intense, but it is in the challenges that I can connect with our mission and who I ride for. I ride for myself, my family and friends, my donors, and everyone touched by cancer.
Why I Ride
My grandfather is quite simply one of the best people that I have ever encountered, and he is the main reason why I joined T4K. Throughout my lifetime, he played an essential role in the formation of my personality. From stubbornness to determination, we were two peas in a pod. It all started with baseball; my Gampa's dad taught Red Sox legend Ted Williams, how to fly fish, and there began our family history with the greatest baseball team. So when I started playing softball, he supported me in every way he could. Even though I lived in London, he came to as many of my games as he physically could and was always in my corner. He introduced me to my favorite baseball player David Ortiz, and while we never got to see a game together, for the rest of my life, I wore the number 34 to remind me of my Gampa. It was a special bond that we had, being the only true red sox fans in our family and because of it, we became the best of friends. It was our bond that helped me through my family’s move from London to Chicago when I had very few friends. Unfortunately, a month after my family moved to Chicago, my gampa’s cancer returned. 5 years earlier, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, but after removing part of his kidney, he recovered well. This time, it was much worse his health really declined, and he became very frail and fatigued all of a sudden, so by the time he went to the doctor to get it checked out, it was too late. His cancer had actually spread to other organs in his stomach, and he was too far along in the prognosis for his organs to be treated. In light of the tragic news, my family moved back to Canada for a bit, and my brother and I sat by his bedside every day until he passed. It was heartbreaking to experience and watch my family go through, and not a day passes when I don't think about him. He is the reason why I ride, as I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him. My journey with T4K can only shed so much light on his impact on me. Gampa was my best friend, so I remember him in every cardinal I see, every Red Sox game I watch, through milestones like Tom Brady's Super Bowls and David Ortiz getting inducted into the MLB hall of fame. Every day when I put my left shoe on before my right shoe it's because he did. I will never forget our shared love of sports- so I'm honored to ride for him and share his memory with others.
My aunt Tracey passed when I was 5 years old, and while I didn’t know her long, the impact that she left on my family is irreplaceable. Her battle with cancer was very short, as she passed within 2 months of her brain cancer diagnosis. She had a rare form of brain cancer that went unnoticed until it was too late for treatment. She loved to travel and was shamelessly herself, which is something that I try to emit every day. She was my family's light, so we continue every day in her honor. In fact, my grandfather took over the harvest half marathon in Calgary after my aunt Tracey passed. Our family organized the race for 10 years and allocated funds to the Tracey Flagg memorial fund in honor of my aunt. My gampa was so selfless in doing this, which is another one of the main reasons I chose to pursue T4K. I am not a spiritual person, but being able to follow in my grandfather's footsteps to a tee through T4K, is more than a sign. Being introduced to the race at such a young age changed my perspective on life immensely, and I would give anything to have that time volunteering with my gampa back. It is an honor to continue his mission through service and fundraising in honor of him and my aunt.
I also ride for my paternal grandfather’s battle with dementia. It was extremely hard to see him fight it for so long and eventually succumb to the illness. He was an incredibly hard-working and driven man, and seeing him so weak in his final years with a weakening memory, was extremely hard to see. So not only do I ride for him, but I also ride for both of my grandmothers, who have been so resilient and strong as our family grieves. My uncle Mario passed a few years after my grandfather from cancer, and he was just one of the smartest, most brilliant people I had ever met, so I ride for him and the positive influence he was on my family.
Lastly, I ride for my friends and family and all of their loved ones who have been affected by cancer. I can’t explain what this cause means to me in just my why I ride, so feel free to follow along my journey this year. Ride with me as we fight cancer every mile, as I am an adamant digital journaler, so you can follow my experience in T4K on Instagram @bella2alaska
Riding every day for my Gampa, and channeling the 2004 Red Sox in honor of him.
To Alaska and back,
Your friend Bella.