• Route: Sierra
  • Ride Year: 2024
  • Hometown: Austin, TX

About: Hi, I'm Emma! I'm a sophomore studying Speech Language Pathology (plus a certificate in Spanish for Medical Professions!) I work at a preschool near UT and I absolutely adore children. I hope to combine my love of kids, passion for supporting others, and degree in speech pathology in my future career.

Why I Ride

First and foremost, my journey is dedicated to anyone who has been touched by cancer. As I have enveloped myself in the world of Texas 4000, I have learned that group is a very large one. I ride with the hope that I can be a part of making it smaller. My two biggest motivations for wanting to be a part of this mission are my grandmother and a close family friend.

My grandmother’s name is Mary Lou Levers, but to me she has always been Gabba. We call her Gabba because when my brother was little he couldn’t say ‘Grandma,’ and it stuck. It is a rather unique name for a grandmother, and I think it suits her perfectly. She has a very strong sense of self, and has never let anyone tell her what to do. My mom thinks I take after her in this way. She lived in the Northeast for much of my childhood, during which she was twice diagnosed, treated, and went into remission for breast cancer. After beating breast cancer, she was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer that caused her to have part of her jaw removed. I remember seeing her radiation mask in her garage, and being so frightened. I was young so I didn’t know how it was used, but I did know that my lovely grandmother was going through something horrible. Gabba is a very talented artist, and I attribute my love of drawing my little doodles to her and growing up surrounded by her art. Every birthday and Christmas she gets me a new set of Faber Castell pens because they are her favorite to draw with. Today at 93, she is living with my aunt and uncle in Austin. Having had cancer three times over the past 30 years, she has benefited greatly by advancements in cancer research. Last year, she was hospitalized for issues unrelated to cancer, and for a few months, she went back and forth from the hospital to rehab. We thought we were close to losing her, but she is home again, though bedridden. She is surrounded by many books and art by her and my late grandfather and stays busy with sudoku and watching birds out the window. Throughout her arduous health journey her mind has stayed sharp, and it is always a special treat when she decides to tell us a story from her childhood, usually one that leaves everyone in tears from laughing.

Professor James Loehlin is so important to my family and adored by many, especially in the UT community. As Director of the University of Texas’ Shakespeare at Winedale program, he leads students with passion and wisdom through the texts of Shakespeare, and I grew up watching and loving the performances of these works. One thing I will never forget about him is his deep booming voice - a blend of native Texan, mixed with a British twinge from his days studying Shakespeare in England. Every New Year’s Eve in memory has been spent at his and his wife Laurel’s house, with the most wonderful assortment of food and discussion among his generations of students. One of my fondest personal memories of him was from when I was in sixth grade. I was portraying Lady Bird Johnson in a play that I had written for National History Day, and he went out of his way to come see me present my work. Later, before one of his student performances, he told everyone how good my play was and how impressed he had been. During the summer of ‘22, my dad told me that James had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Even now as he is going through treatment, he continues teaching his classes because it is what he has always loved.

To me, Texas 4000 is a symbol of hope and grit. The fight against cancer is hard and messy, and Texas 4000 encapsulates the unwavering spirit of those involved in the fight. I ride for those close to me who have or are experiencing cancer’s ruthlessness. I ride for their loved ones who are in the fight with them. I ride for those going through the fight alone and those who lack the resources they deserve. I joined Texas 4000 because it will be one of the most challenging and fulfilling things I have ever done, and stretch my mind, body, and heart in ways I never thought possible. I can’t think of a more meaningful cause to give all of myself to.

To Alaska and beyond,