Wheels on fire: Ethan Perez

By ALLEN ESSEX Valley Morning Star

Allen Essex/Valley Morning Star

Ethan Perez, a UT-Austin student, will bike from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska, next summer to help raise money for cancer research and awareness. Other than riding a bicycle as a boy, the sport is new to him, but he will use his general athletic ability to evolve into a serious cyclist over the next year.

Riding a bicycle from Austin to Alaska next summer will be Ethan Perez’s way of connecting to the effort to raise awareness about cancer, a disease that until recently didn’t seem to have anything to do with his life, he said.

Perez, who just finished his freshman year at the University of Texas at Austin, is a graduate of Harlingen High School South.

Although his main focus at college is information technology as used in business, he wanted to channel his keen interest in intramural sports with the desire to do something meaningful.

He plans to find that meaning in Texas 4000; Fighting Cancer Every Mile, a program started through the Livestrong Foundation, which was made famous by Lance Armstrong, who no longer is involved, Perez said.

“It’s a fundraiser for cancer,” he said. “It’s built on three pillars: hope, knowledge and charity.”

The athletic challenge is daunting.

“What I’m going to do next summer is I’m going to bike from Austin to Alaska,” said Perez, who was born and raised in Harlingen.

“When we ride, we ride for somebody we know who is affected by cancer,” he said.

He thought cancer would not affect him but after beginning involvement with Texas 4000, he learned two of his relatives now have cancer, Perez said.

“On our way to Alaska, we’re going to stop in a bunch of small towns and cities and we’ll give presentations about cancer awareness, cancer programs and things you can do if you know somebody who’s been diagnosed with cancer, or if you have cancer.”

Although he played high school basketball and is a very active intramural athlete in college, he must become a serious cyclist during the next year, Perez said.

Also, he must raise $4,500 before the trek begins, he said. But he has set his own fundraising goal of $15,000, he said.

Over the last 10 years, Texas 4000 has raised about $3.5 million to $4 million for cancer research and other Livestrong Foundation efforts, he said.

He will begin his sophomore year at UT this fall, Perez said. He is studying management information systems, learning new ways digital technology will function in business and industry in the future, Perez said.

Although he was in school band only in middle school, he continues to play saxophone, he said.

“I’m extremely into sports,” he said. “I spend 18 hours a week at the rec center at UT and participate in intramural sports.”

Perez is the younger of two sons of Joseph and Sylvia Perez. His father is a chaplain at Valley Baptist Medical Center. His older brother Eli is a banker in Birmingham, Ala.

Valley Morning Star