By Stephanie Benhart
From sea to shining sea… literally.
Yiming Chang, sophomore in Accounting, did just that last summer, biking from New York to Seattle, as part of Illini 4000 for Cancer.
The group bikes approximately 4000 miles across the country in 72 days to raise awareness and money for cancer research. Proceeds are donated to the American Cancer Society, specifically for cancer research and to the Kesem Camp, a camp for children whose families are affected by cancer.
Now entering its third year of existence, Illini 4000 has grown and made a real impact on campus and the country. The team aims to raise $100,000 for the organizations and each team member has a goal of around $2,500.
“We were showered by generosity,” Chang said, citing the different people the team met along the way. “We met one lady on a Subway in Washington and she asked why we were all wearing the same shirts. We told her our cause, and after talking with us for 5 minutes, she wrote us a check.”
Team members were able to meet different people and experience different opinions and cultures. They traveled through the biggest cities like New York, to towns with populations under 10.
“It’s a cool way to see America and local cultures,” she said.
The team was able to stay in many churches and community centers free of charge along the way. These organizations also helped to spread awareness of the group and their cause during their short visits in various towns and cities. Restaurants also often donated their resources to the team in support of their cause.
When the team rested they would often visit hospitals in the local area to support those battling cancer. Visiting cancer victims was both educational and emotional for the team.
Most of the team members have family members affected by cancer. Chang’s grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006, the first member of her family to battle cancer.
The team extended their personal experiences in their “Portrait Project.” During rest times throughout the summer the team would go into the community to find cancer survivors and record their stories.
“It’s about how Americans’ lives are affected, how they deal with their family and how their community reacts and helps when someone has cancer,” Chang said.
Although a lot of work was involved and a lot of sacrifices were made, Chang doesn’t regret any moment of the ride and hopes to participate again in the future when she is not pursuing internships.
“It’s not about being comfortable, it’s about encouraging each other and supporting a good cause,” she said.
Illini 4000 for Cancer: http://www.illini4000.org/