The vast majority of stories in this section, in this newspaper, are in some way connected to Sparks. ‘The Sparks Tribune’ is not a code.
This story is an exception. It is not related to Sparks. But many people in Sparks can surely relate.
Cancer. The C-word.
According to cancer.gov, approximately 39.6 percent of the population will be diagnosed with some form of the disease. Rare is the individual who hasn’t had a family member, friend, associate, etc. receive the bad news.
Due to its unwelcomed prevalence, myriad organizations and charities continue to raise funds to fight cancer’s countless forms (national cancer-related expenditures neared $125 million in 2010 via cancer.gov). The Texas 4,000 is no different. And yet, it is very different.
There are walks for cancer, sure. There are runs for cancer. There are even bike rides for cancer. None cover 4,000 miles, except the Texas 4,000.
On Saturday, June 4, 66 University of Texas students started a 70-day bike ride that will end in Anchorage, Alaska. The group aims to raise $825,000. As Saturday, they were just north of $531,000.
The group of riders remained together on the first day then broke off on three separate paths to Alaska. One went straight north and will enter Canada through Minnesota, one is traversing the Rocky Mountains and the third nearly made its way through Reno/Sparks.
The Sierra group biked through Las Vegas up Highway 95 and got as far north as Hawthorne, where it branched west through Yosemite National Park. It made its way to Lake Tahoe over the weekend, where it spent a rare off day on Saturday. The group takes a break once every 7-10 days.
So how does it work? How do fewer than 70 college students from Texas plan to raise nearly $1 million by getting familiar with their bike seats?
“It’s through their personal networks or panhandling,” Texas 4,000 Program Director Emmy Laursen said. “It’s pretty crazy.”
To participate in the ride, a minimum of nearly $5,000 needed to be raised by each individual. The most money raised by a single rider – thus far – is $47,354. Each hard core fundraiser also had to log 2,000 miles on a bike before the expedition.
What about places to sleep? To eat?
“They spend their entire year and a half before they go on the ride, planning the logistics,” Laursen said. “They reach out to chambers of commerce, churches, recreation centers and individual families, planning where they are staying every single night and if they have food covered, if they have laundry covered, if they’re going to be able to shower there, etc.”
She guestimates 300-500 total Samaritans will help the riders on their varying journeys from Texas to Alaska.
She also knows first-hand what the actual experience is like. She did the ride, which started in 2004 and raised more than $7 million since, two years ago.
“It’s life-changing. Every individual who’s doing the ride has been personally affected by cancer in some way,” Laursen said. “Most of them are doing a lot of healing and honoring and grieving loved ones … It’s really hard but you enjoy the struggle for sure.
“As soon as you get a handle on it, it feels like it’s over. You’re getting used to it the entire time then finally you get the hang of it … then it ends. It’s really bittersweet when you get to that finish line. You build a family with those people you’re riding next to every day.”
As for the three families this year, they don’t have to worry about dodging salmon in Alaska yet. Barring any setbacks, they will reach Anchorage on August 12.
For further information, or inquiries about donating, visit www.texas4000.org.