Texas 4000 trek raises cancer awareness

Twenty-four college bicyclists journeying to Alaska shared their stories with Amarillo cancer patients Wednesday afternoon at Harrington Cancer Center.

The Texas 4000 Team is less than a week into its 70-day bike ride, covering more than 4,000 miles from Austin to Anchorage, Ala.

“I’m humbled when I see young people giving back, trying to make a difference in the world, especially in the fight against cancer,” said John J. Montville, Harrington Cancer Center director.

Texas 4000 organizes the longest annual charity bike ride in the world and is a community comprised of students at The University of Texas. The students raise funds and volunteer to spread hope to those affected by cancer.

The team raised a record $640,000 this year for cancer-fighting initiatives.

“This year, we’ve actually went above and beyond,” said rider Sai Gourisankar, 22.

Along their journey, the riders will visit with cancer survivors, caregivers and communities to make educational presentations about cancer prevention and early detection. The riders also use this time to offer hope and encouragement and share their personal stories with cancer fighters of all ages.

“We ride to spread three pillars: hope, knowledge and charity with the communities we ride through,” Gourisankar said.

Wednesday marked the team’s first ever stop in Amarillo on the trek’s fifth day. The riders traveled north from Austin through Dallas and Oklahoma before heading west through the Texas Panhandle.

Montville said it’s important to raise awareness and educate people about cancer, especially in the Texas Panhandle.

“It’s a great chance for people to think about cancer, for people to think about what they can do to prevent it in their own lives and to support their communities and support the people in their communities that are battling this terrible disease,” Montville said.

Rider Bevin Baughn said riders educate residents of smaller communities that may not have as many resources as bigger cities for promoting cancer awareness.

Baughn said she has met remarkable people in those communities who have shared their experiences with cancer.

“Their stories become our shared inspiration for when we ride through the summer,” Gourisankar said.

Each Texas 4000 rider must go through an 18-month process, which includes 1,500 miles of bicycle training, volunteering for more than 50 hours in the community and playing an active role in planning the ride to Alaska.

The riders all have loved ones who inspire them to complete their journey. Baughn’s main motivation for riding comes from her step father and step brothers. Her step father lost his first wife to cancer in 1990 while her step brothers were about 7 years old.

“They never got to grow up with their mother and so I’ve seen how (cancer has) affected their lives even 20, 25 years later,” Baughn said.

Gourisankar rides for his grandfather who survived Stage 4 bladder cancer. When his grandfather died, he left a letter that has stuck with Gourisankar.

“He has inspired me with his integrity and generosity,” Gourisankar said. “He left a note for his grandchildren in his will instructing us to remember that life is too short to be small. In Texas 4000, nothing we do is small.”

For more information on the Texas 4000, visit www.texas4000.org.

By Vanessa Garcia

Original article here.

Video with article here.