Illini 4000 bike ride gives students an opportunity to get fit, see the country, and raise money for cancer research
Road trips are a rite of passage for college students looking for a little adventure – but this summer, a small group of students will be road-tripping for a more serious cause.
Starting in May, 25 college students from across the U.S. will take part in the Illini 4000, a cross-country bike ride from New York City to San Diego to raise money for cancer. Anish Thakkar and Jonathan Schlesinger, two students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the founders of the race, hope to raise $100,000 from donations and sponsors. They will divide the money between the American Cancer Society and Camp Kesem, a national organization of summer camps for children whose parents have been affected by cancer.
Camp Kesem program director Jeff Leibach said the funds raised from the ride would go to the University of Illinois chapter of Camp Kesem.
“The bulk of the money that is raised for us is going to go directly to making that camp possible,” Leibach said. “It’s going to be used for paying for the campsite and allowing the children who go there to attend the camp for free.”
The rest of the money will be given to the American Cancer Society. Shayne Squires, a representative of the ACS in Urbana-Champaign, said the money would go a long way toward funding cancer-related projects.
“The money goes into research, patient support programs and education for early prevention,” Squires said. “Any money coming in for the fight against cancer really helps significantly.”
Thakkar, a senior electrical engineering major, understands that cancer research always needs funding. Thakkar has worked extensively with bio-medical imaging for his major and has done cancer-related research for the majority of his time at Illinois.
“Being on the research side here, I’ve seen a definite need for increased funding for research related to cancer, so that’s kind of where my passion is coming from,” Thakkar said.
Anyone currently enrolled in college is invited to apply for the ride. Applicants are expected to be in good general health to meet the physical demands of the ride, but do not necessarily have to have been affected by cancer in any part of their lives. The deadline to apply is Feb. 5. Thakkar hopes the riders will gain a greater understanding of cancer from the trip.
“One of our goals is to give (the riders) an opportunity to see cancer from a different side,” Thakkar said. “At the end, we’re hoping these people will have raised a lot of money for a good cause, seen what cancer does on a very personal level and, most importantly, become advocates for the cause.”
To increase the riders’ awareness of cancer and those it has affected, the group will visit hospitals, community centers and schools along the way.
Some students from CU were generally impressed with the idea of a summer spent working for a salary paid in gratification rather than money.
Zaq Tull, a sophomore humanities major, said the riders will experience extreme personal growth from the ride.
“Helping other people is like a circle of goodness, because in the end, you’re also really helping yourself,” Tull said. “The guys doing this are true American heroes.”
Sean Stephens, a sophomore business major, agreed that the riders’ cause is noble, but questioned the physical constraints of the ride.
“It’s a really selfless way to spend your summer,” Stephens said. “But I know a lot of people that can’t even walk from their houses to class, let alone bike across the country. I’d only do it if they drove me.”
Students can apply at Illini4000.org.
Contact staff writer Brian Beer at email@example.com