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

About: Hello!! My name is Mariana (most of my friends call me Mar) and you can usually find me diving (poorly) into barton springs year-round, spending hours browsing record stores, sitting at my favorite coffee shops, rehearsing with my string quartet, or scoping out the sunniest spots to read at a nearby park.

At UT, I'm an International Relations and Global Studies major as well as a part of the Plan II Honors program. Through a myriad of sustainability, foreign relations, and philosophy classes, I've grown passionate about climate change and its effects on different communities across the globe. After graduation, I hope to pursue a law degree so I can make a direct difference in environmental justice issues.

I feel incredibly lucky and excited to be a part of Texas 4000, and I can't wait to see where the journey takes me between Austin and Alaska!

Why I Ride

15 years ago, my paternal grandmother passed away from a brain tumor. At 5 years old, it was impossible for me to grasp the effects that my grandmother’s illness had had on our family. I knew that she was gone, but I didn’t learn about the pain and sacrifices that my dad had made for years prior to her passing until later.

8 years ago, just a few weeks before my confirmation into the Catholic church, my mom lost feeling in her legs. Various doctor’s visits in between event planning meetings revealed a diagnosis that none of us had even heard of before– Multiple Sclerosis, an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. My family’s whole switched to survival mode in a split second. I was sent to stay with family friends while my dad took time off of work to help my mom. The following months were incredibly difficult– my mom had countless appointments to find the right treatment, my dad had to return to work, and the home-cooked meals, offers to pick me up from school, and well wishes from neighbors and friends slowly came to a stop. I could tell my mom was depressed, but I didn’t know how to help her. She went from making delicious meals and pursuing her passions of gardening and yoga to laying in bed and taking what seemed like an entire pharmacy of pills every day. It wasn’t until my dad heard about the Bike MS 150 from a few of his cycling buddies that things started to look up. Bike MS gave my dad a sense of purpose and allowed him to stop feeling so helpless. He brought me to fundraisers where we told people our story, trained every weekend, and even got close friends from Mexico to fly to Fort Worth for the ride. My mom slowly started attending fundraising events with us and sharing her story with others fighting MS. I could tell that the sense of support and community from riders and survivors meant more to her than she could say. On the day of the ride, my mom and I stood at the finish line, waiting for my dad. He had successfully fundraised close to $2000 and ridden all 150 miles for my mom. It was then that I understood what riding for someone really meant, and how a charity ride like MS 150 had the power to garner support, spread awareness, and inspire hope. The next year, after countless hours of rehabilitation and training, my mom successfully completed the MS 150. By getting back on the bike, both literally and figuratively, my mom regained her strength, motivation, and found a new sense of purpose.

1 year ago, my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer, and the memories of my mom’s MS diagnosis came rushing back. My mom felt helpless the same way that my dad and I did years ago, as we were unable to travel to Mexico and see my grandma amidst COVID restrictions and travel bans. Additionally, I was in Austin, unable to help my parents in Dallas. I heard about Texas 4000 from a friend and instantly remembered what a difference Bike MS had made for my family nearly a decade ago. The difference was that I wasn’t a middle-schooler anymore– I had grown into a responsible adult with a fierce loyalty to family and a passion for helping others. I now had the power to make a commitment to cultivate hope and help communities in something so much bigger than myself.

Today, I plan to fulfill my commitment through Texas 4000. I want to ride for my mom and dad, so intimately touched and burdened by the responsibility of caring for a parent, my friends, and my teammates. I also want to ride for the communities, families, and patients around the world, and, of course, two of the strongest women I have ever known– my grandmothers.

To Alaska and back,