Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Keep Pedaling - The Illini4000

My apologies for not having another post up today sooner and for being a bit slow in answering comments during these past few days. Since last Thursday I've been out of town. The Illini 4000, a group of 28 bicyclists, mostly students at the University of Illinois, were passing through Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and my husband and I were hosting them. I just arrived back home last night and promptly fell asleep at 7:30! (I cannot believe I fell asleep that early).

I've written about this group before (this was our 5th year as hosts: we fell into this because our son has been a rider, a director, a ride leader and is now the alumni coordinator), but each group is different. To be honest, every year I think about whether we want to keep doing this. And every year, after each group arrives, I always wonder why I even questioned continuing. Every group of riders is different, but all are amazing. These young people give up jobs (and money) to bicycle across the country (it used to be 4,000 miles but now is about 4,500 miles), sleeping on the floor for more than two months (75 days), living in constant group circumstances, relying on the good will of others for food and sporadic access to showers (a garden hose turned on themselves is not uncommon, I understand), forcing themselves up mountains by their own pedal power, biking through whatever weather is thrown at them and missing out on family events and celebrations.

A message on their home page reads:

FIVE million diagnosed each year. One lost to cancer every minute. But there is a hope. For the families, researchers and doctors committed to the fight, we pedal. By the hope, love, and support of people we meet, 
we keep going.

Some of the riders blog about their experiences, and an ongoing message I've seen over these past five years is that whenever they're struggling to climb a mountain or get past physical pain, they remember those they've met who have fought and are continue to fight to survive the pain and fear of cancer. Indeed, just to stay alive. The riders' message to themselves is that no pain they can experience during this challenging ride can begin to compare to the pain of the people they're riding for. If those with cancer can keep fighting, then surely they can keep riding in the hope of helping those battling to survive.

This is a group that has managed to donate 87% of their funds collected, a much higher percentage than most charities. Over the past five years, they've managed to donate $306,000 to the American Cancer Society; $37,500 to Camp Kesem, a summer camp for the children of those battling cancer; $19,500 to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (provides young scientists with funds to pursue innovative cancer research); $5,000 to the Ishan Gala Foundation (fighting pediatric neuroblastoma); and $5,000 to a University of Illinois cancer researcher, Dr. Harley (note: for the first few years, money was only given to the American Cancer Society and Camp Kesem: hence, the reason for the much larger numbers for those causes). That's a total of $398,000 donatedThis year, the group has collected just shy of $116,000 (so far). 

All, I can say is, Keep Going, Illini 4000!

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