By Katie Warn, FSU News Intern
Frostburg State University students Chey Hillsgrove, Michael McNair and Ashley Daniels say they haven’t really ridden their bicycles since they were kids, but this summer they and fellow student Jessica Hamilton of Oakland, Md., will bike between 60 and 120 miles a day for 67 days on a trip across the country.
“The whole trip is around 4,000 miles, and we’re doing it with a hope to inspire cancer patients,” said Hillsgrove, of Elkton, Md. The riders will stay in YMCAs, schools, hotels and gyms in various communities across the U.S. While stopped in the communities, the riders will do everything they can to support victims of cancer and raise awareness about the devastating disease.
The riders will depart from Baltimore on May 29 with the nonprofit organization 4K for Cancer.
“We will stop along the way and do presentations about cancer. We will meet and talk with patients, from children to adults, when we get to where they live,” said McNair, of Washington, D.C.
“I’m hoping that when the cancer patients see how far we’ve biked, it will inspire some hope in people,” said Hagerstown, Md., native Daniels.
The students have different motivations for donating their summers to cancer.
“I’ve had multiple family members affected by cancer. Some have survived and some have not. My roommate’s fiancée is a cancer survivor,” Daniels said.
Hillsgrove’s “second mom,” a woman he considers “mom” in every sense but on paper, and his grandmother died of cancer.
McNair’s decision to join the ride was a bit different. “I was walking on campus when I got the information from a friend. Originally, I wanted to do the ride for a pretty selfish reason – to see the country. Now, though, I care more about the cause,” he said.
After making the initial decision to do the ride, the riders began to think about preparation.
“I’ve been working out in the gym on the bikes, but it’s just not the same,” said Hillsgrove. “I haven’t biked, honestly, since I was a kid and definitely nothing this long.”
McNair started by working out on the elliptical machine at the FSU gym, and later by riding around Frostburg on his bike custom-built by Baltimore Bike Works.
“I’ve ridden my bike for fun as a kid, but I’ve never done anything this intense or physically demanding. I know it’s going to get intense,” Daniels said.
But being physically fit isn’t the only thing the riders are worried about.
“I’m scared of the idea of befriending a person who might die. I’ve never really known anyone who has died before,” said McNair.
Even with the highest of hopes to inspire people and lift their spirits, the riders realize they aren’t always going to be able to do that.
“I’m worried about seeing a cancer patient, like a little kid, and not being able to take their pain away. I’m worried that I’m not going to be able to make them happy,” Hillsgrove said.
Along with the anxieties of the trip, the riders are hoping that the mix of emotional and financial support they will offer will make a difference.
“For some people, the cost of transportation and medicines is just too expensive. Some people need the money, and some people need the emotional support,” Daniels said.
Hillsgrove knows first-hand just how financially draining cancer can be. “My second mom had no insurance. Three days before she died, she was literally scraping together nickels and dimes to buy food,” he stated.
4K for Cancer’s mission is to spread awareness and hope in communities across the country in the fight against cancer. They do this through cancer education programs, health screenings and by visiting cancer patients at hospitals, cancer centers and hospices each day during the ride. 4K also gives financial support to local, cancer-centric nonprofits in the communities the bikers visit.
For more information or to donate, visit www.4kforcancer.org. Click on “Support Us” to find the accounts for individual riders.