The 4K for Cancer ride send off is finally here! Starting Sunday morning and lasting until the ninth of August over one hundred young adults will be riding from Baltimore to the West Coast. We reached out to the Ride Directors, those riders who stepped up and took a leadership position, and asked them to join us for an interview. Emily Ewing (San Diego Ride Director), Aaron Hoxworth (Portland Ride Director), Shelby Perkins (Seattle Ride Director) and George “Eric” Knapp (San Diego Ride Director) took time out of their 4k preparation to share their thoughts on their upcoming journey.
There is a lot of appeal to a supported bike trip across America. On top of that, the 4K for Cancer offers the amazing opportunity where riders can benefit to lives of those impacted by cancer. Everyone who takes part of a ride has their own reasons for doing so. When asked why she was doing the ride Ewing explained, “I knew three people that participated in 2013 Team San Diego and became incredibly inspired to make a difference just like they did. I, like most, have been affected by cancer in many ways so it was a cause that really spoke to me.” Hoxworth said he was drawn to the 4k because, “I was checking into the organization and the event for a friend who was deciding whether or not she wanted to participate in the 4k. After reading about the cause and the event, I fell in love with the opportunity. I wanted to dedicate my summer to fighting for something great; to challenging myself; and to scoping out the rest of the United States I have never seen before. I wanted an adventure that went beyond myself.” Some, like Perkins, join the 4K looking for a life changing experience. “The past few summers, I have seen classmates join the 4K, expect a really cool ride, and come back with a different world view. The changes within them are difficult to quantify but reflect a newfound faith in the world, trust in people, and desire to help enact change. Seeing these inspiring changes was enough to convince me last fall that my post-college confused phase should include biking across the country and working to help others”, she said.
Unfortunately, almost everyone has some connection to cancer. Each of the directors have some kind of friend or family member who has battled the disease. Knapp sees his cancer connection as his motivation for joining the ride. “I have had two close family members who have had and survived cancer. They are my inspiration….Early in the year I went to visit a close family member who has had an ongoing battle with cancer. Before that visit I had heard of 4K and always thought it would be a cool thing to do. However, after that day I came home and it all clicked and decided I needed to do it for myself, and for others.” Hoxworth, who is also riding for very inspirational family member, states, “Although I have been fortunate to have only a few encounters with cancer throughout my life, the most significant encounter is life-changing. My hero, my grandpa on my dad’s side of the family, survived two quadruple bypass surgeries in his old age, battled with cancer multiple times before he pass away from stage 4 prostate cancer. He was the best man I have ever known and I strive to have the courage, strength, and faith that he exuded on a daily basis. Upon signing up for the 4k, I reminisced about my grandpa and all the time I was unable to spend with him – I knew I had to participate in this ride for him.” Perkins has seen cancer infiltrate the lives of her peers and bring down those in the prime of their lives. “I’m riding this summer for a fellow alumna from my high school, Chastity Dunnaville. Chas was a few years older than myself and a role model for everyone at our school before heading off to the Naval Academy for college. Soon after graduation, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that eventually claimed her life. Chas’s death was a reality check in my life of how cancer doesn’t discriminate and can take down even those people you think are invincible,” she says. Ewing has seen both family and friends affected, commenting that “My first true experience with cancer was in 7th grade. One of my good friends was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma and it really affected our entire school community. Then came my aunt with Breast Cancer, and my mom with stage 4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Additionally, I’ve seen many, many friends suffer from the loss of a loved one due to cancer. I don’t think you can meet anyone that isn’t affected by cancer in some way.”
For many, the 4K grants the opportunity to travel the country for the first time. And everyone has some sight they’re excited to see. “I’m fairly certain that I will be crying of happiness when we get to Glacier National Park. Pictures of this park from 4K alumni are what made me choose the Seattle route in the first place and already make me really emotional so I apologize in advance to anyone riding with me that day for the inevitable tears.”, says Perkins. Ewing is “very excited to get to go to the beach in Pensacola and then ride down the coast of the Gulf of Mexico for a few days until we reach New Orleans.” Though some can’t decide on just one thing and are looking forward to bike through whole stretches of the states. “I am most excited to bike through Colorado, Yellowstone National Park, the very small portion of Montana, and, of course, Portland.”, says Hoxworth. Knapp is “…a huge fan of deep-south blues music…”, and is “…very excited to bike through the south in general.”
To help lead a group of college aged adults across America is a huge undertaking. We asked the directors why they decided to jump into a leadership role and what they can offer their teams. “I tend to be the one to take charge in a group and know that I can trust myself to get something done. I wanted to be really invested in the ride, more than just riding everyday…. I hope to make the trip as safe and as fun as possible for everyone, while still promoting the 4K/Ulman mission”, says Ewing. Hoxworth responded that, “I knew that I could perform my duties well and I love facilitating teamwork and bringing a team closer, encouraging them to work together harmoniously,” and that he “…want[s] to offer my team a sense of assuredness to my team – that, no matter what the situation, it will be taken care of and the team will be led into the right decisions.” Perkins sees herself as a natural morale booster, and she says that she, “…hope[s] that my teammates can come to me with any concerns they have either regarding the trip or themselves and all of us can help each other to open our hearts and practice compassion throughout the trip.” And Knapp is confident to act as an, “…unbiased, understanding, and transparent leader. Everyone will have a voice and I will do my best at being as effective and efficient as possible through good group communication.”
So if you’re in the Baltimore area this Sunday at 7am, come down to the Inner Harbor’s Amphitheater for the 4K send off! To those supports who already plan on attending our directors wanted to take a moment to say a few words of appreciation. “Thank you SO much for everything. I have continued to be amazed at how many people are willing to donate, share my blog updates, and even offer to host us. The hosts that we have secured have been so welcoming to us and it makes me really excited to meet them. This trip would not be possible without the generosity of everyone’s friends and family, and even the strangers we encounter.” “Thank you so much for believing in me to do something unlike anything I have ever even dreamed of doing. With your constant support and encouragement, I feel so uplifted, as if I can conquer the world. I will make it and I will come back!” “I just want to give all of my love to everyone who has supported me in this ridiculous crazy adventure I’m about to embark on. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who encourage me to have adventures and discover myself while also focusing on helping others and the 4K is the perfect opportunity to do that. I wish I could hug and kiss everyone who has donated to my trip, given me positive reinforcement, or helped me figure out clip in pedals and y’all will be getting lots of postcards and snapchats during the trip to make sure you don’t forget about me.” “THANK YOU! This truly is an amazing group of people who are beinf selfess to help others. Cancer changes lives, and so do we!”