Seven UGA students will travel about 4,500 miles this summer on a transcontinental bike ride to raise $100,000 for cancer research through Believe in the Cure, a nonprofit organization co-founded by Honors students and undergraduate cancer researchers Sarah Breevoort and Nathan Crain.
Breevoort, a junior in biochemistry and molecular biology, thought about starting this student organization in late fall after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She already had lost her father to lung cancer when she was 14. Crain, a senior in genetics and Spanish, joined forces with Breevoort after they talked at a triathlon club meeting. They learned of their similar academic and sports interests, along with conducting cancer research projects with faculty mentors.
"The fact that I participate in cancer research now offers various advantages pertaining directly to the trip," said Breevoort, who works in the laboratory of Walter Schmidt, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. "I feel that I have a realistic perspective as to what it takes to develop drugs and eventually find a cure for the disease. Too often I have seen potentially amazing projects remain uncompleted because of a lack of research funds."
"My mother's best friend of 35 years, Susan Moll, died from a metastatic breast cancer, and it was certainly a trying time for me to see my mom and family go through the whole process," said Crain, who works in the laboratory of Michael McEachern, a professor of genetics. "I was amazed at the support rallied by friends and family after Ms. Moll's death, and this team work is an inspiration to us all."
To prepare for the two-month, 80-mile-a-day trip, Breevoort, Crain and other members of Team Believe are training for various triathlons and 100-mile bike rides called centuries. The team also rides together at least three times a week. Following a route developed more than 30 years ago by the Adventure Cycling Association, the team will visit cancer patients along the way and carry camping supplies with them.
The bike ride will begin in Astoria, Ore., and end in Yorktown, Va. Another student Mark Paton-Ash, a senior finance major who had planned to participate, was hit by a truck and sustained severe injuries while riding his bike on Olympic Drive in mid-February.
"We all consider it very lucky that Mark is still alive with full mental capacities," said Breevoort. "This accident has changed our outlook dramatically for our trip and we now ride also in honor of our dear friend, and we will keep him in our thoughts throughout this entire process."
Official fundraising has begun this month and several events leading up to a send-off party on June 5 include coordinating benefit concerts, setting up a booth at the annual Relay for Life in April, and partnering with event organizers during Twilight Criterion, a professional cycling event held in Athens every spring. Team Believe members also will ride all night long on stationary bikes on the corner of Clayton Street and College Avenue several Fridays nights throughout March and April and challenge the public to "race" against them to raise money for the trip.
"We are very proud of Sarah and Nathan, who, like many of our students, are already making a significant positive difference in the world," said David Williams, director of UGA's Honors Program. "I'm personally pleased to see the interconnectedness of research and community service in their project, and wish them a good and safe trip."