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Young adults embark on 4,000-mile cross-country trek in 4K for Cancer event

Matthew Lane • Jun 13, 2013 at 11:04 PM

KINGSPORT — Most teenagers and young adults envision the summer months being a time of part-time jobs and vacations, hanging out with friends or taking a break from the workload of high school and college.

But for one group of young adults, summer means a 4,000-mile biking trek across the country in an effort to raise money and awareness for the thousands of young adults affected by cancer.

More than 130 young adults, ages 18 to 25, are participating in this year’s 4K for Cancer event, which includes a 70-day bike ride from Baltimore to the West Coast and a 30-day run from San Francisco to Baltimore.

The 4K for Cancer event is a program of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, a nonprofit organization established in 1997 whose mission is support, educate, connect and empower young adult cancer survivors.

“The young adult population is under-represented by other cancer institutions, so the Ulman Cancer Fund is unique in that they focus on young adults, ages 19 to 39,” said Michael Jeanfavre of Litchfield, Conn., one of the riders who came through the Model City this week.

On his 4K for Cancer profile, Jeanfavre said the reason he is riding in the event is because he believes our purpose in life is to provide service to others.

“To allow them to lean on us in times of need. I want to not only empathize with those who have been affected by this disease but help them in any way that I can,” Jeanfavre wrote. “It is for these reasons that I want to pursue this wonderfully grueling and unique adventure. I want to contribute in the cause to unite ... I want to contribute to the effort to inspire.”

The 4K for Cancer event began in the summer of 2002 when 24 college students at Johns Hopkins University launched the inaugural cross-country bike ride as a student group event, riding from Baltimore to San Francisco with the goal of offering hope, inspiration and support to cancer communities along the way.

Today, the event has grown to the cross-country run and four courses of bikers, all leaving from Baltimore but arriving in San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, Ore., and Seattle. A typical day has bikers riding 60 miles with the longest stretch being about 130 miles.

Twenty-seven of the San Francisco riders were in town Tuesday and spent the night at the Colonial Heights Baptist Church before heading out early Wednesday morning on the next leg of their ride.

On her 4K for Cancer profile, Lamie Nguyen of Columbia, Md., said her parents and grandparents fled from the war in Vietnam in tiny fishing boats with only the clothes on their backs, and the reason she is riding across the country is for her grandparents and two former teachers, all of whom were affected by cancer.

“I could not fight the battle for any of my loved ones, but I want to fight alongside of them, to show them solidarity, and to be inspired by their strength to overcome one of life’s most difficult challenges,” Nguyen wrote.

The group rides every other day and spends the night at community centers, churches, YMCAs and universities along the route. Every rider was required to raise a minimum of $4,500. The 27 riders who came through Kingsport have raised more than $165,000 while all four groups have raised more than $500,000.

“As we go, we depend on the support and the generosity of the communities that we interact with,” Nguyen said. “One of the many ways we unite communities and spread awareness is because young adults are often neglected in research and treatment options. People don’t think young adults get cancer and don’t survive it.”

And in the cities and towns where they spend the night, Jeanfavre said the riders organize and participate in service opportunities to either directly or indirectly serve the cancer population.

“In Charlottesville, Va., we served at the University of Virginia Medical Center, doing everything from direct patient contact and care to stuffing letters and flyers for cancer patients newly diagnosed,” Jeanfavre said. “We’re helping them navigate through their cancer diagnosis, and providing programs afterwards in rehab to get them back to functioning lives.”

For more information on the event, visit www.4kforcancer.org.

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