Special to the Journal
Every year, Texas 4000 competitively selects University of Texas students for an 18-month program designed to cultivate the next generation to lead the fight against cancer. Texas 4000 empowers each student to raise $4,500, ride 2,000 training miles with his/her team, volunteer more than 50 hours in the community, and play an active role in planning every aspect of the ride to Alaska by attending weekly meetings and taking leadership positions within the team.
Amazing Grace of Texas, a bed and breakfast establishment on Main Street in Belton, hosted the riders on their way North Monday. Owner Debra Schwarz provided rest for the night.
They participate in a 70-day ride that travels three routes from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska, the Texas 4000 summer ride is the longest annual charity bike ride in the world. Starting together in Austin on Day Zero, the team splits on Day Two into Sierra, Rockies, and Ozarks routes and later reunites in Canada to ride the last nine days together into Anchorage. Each rider logs more than 4,000 riding miles throughout the course of the ride.
The riders arrange all accommodations in advance during the training year. They rely on the generosity of host families, churches, and schools for shelter and are prepared to camp when housing is not available. Riders provide their own “SAG” support, rotating through the duties of driving the support vehicles, setting up rest stops, securing food donations, and preparing meals that are not provided.
Messages of prevention and early detection are shared through educational programs given by riders in many of the towns they ride through. They view it as an honor to have the opportunity to share life-saving information with communities large and small. These programs often begin powerful conversations and allow individuals to share how cancer has affected their lives. Community members have the opportunity to sign the team’s dedication banner, which the riders will carry on their journey to Alaska in memory or honor of that individual’s fight.
Wherever they are along the journey, the riders begin their day by gathering in a circle to reflect on their shared mission to fight cancer. Often joined by their hosts, everyone shares ride dedications for the day – usually made in honor or in memory of a loved one or someone they have met along the road who is fighting cancer.
Each year, Texas 4000 awards grants to organizations with a focus on cancer research or cancer support services. Established requirements for grantees include involvement and investment in the Texas 4000 program as well as the ability of the grant to make a significant relative impact. The grant review committee consists of the most recent alumni riders, previous alumni, Board members, staff, and community members. A few examples of previous Texas 4000 grants:
• MD Anderson Cancer Center (Distinguished Professorship Endowment, Center for Molecular Markers, Center for Targeted Therapy, and Children’s Cancer Hospital)
• LIVESTRONG Foundation (Navigation Support Services and Community Impact Project)
• University of Texas at Austin Department of Biomedical Engineering (multiple research seed grants, Established Texas 4000 Endowment)
• Brent’s Place (“Safe-Clean” living accommodations for immune-compromised children undergoing cancer treatment)