This summer, Christina Shroeder is planning on taking a 70-day vacation, but she won’t be spending it sitting on a tropical beach.
The 23-year-old University of South Dakota graduate and current senior secretary for USD’s school of law, will be leaving Baltimore, Maryland on June 5 on a bicycle and is scheduled to arrive in San Diego, California on August 13 all to raise money for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.
“The Ulman Cancer Fund for young adults is an organization dedicated to providing support for young adults in a different way than most people would think,” Schroeder said. “They are not dedicated to research, instead they focus on creating programs that support young adults and provide young adults and their families with navigators to help them navigate them through the treatment options they have as well as the financial decisions they have to go through.”
Schroeder first heard about the 4K For Cancer while studying in Costa Rica last spring from a girl who had done it in the past.
“I met a girl in Costa Rica while I was studying there who told me about it,” she said. “A bunch of us got excited about it and one other girl applied the same time I applied.”
Participants are chosen through an application process and need to interview in order to get accepted. Once accepted, riders are placed on one of four teams, all of which travel different routes. Schroder will be part of a 23-person team heading to San Diego.
Team San Diego will bike between 50 and 120 miles per day and must complete the route in the allotted 70 days with scheduled stops in a particular city every day.
All accommodations for the trip are made through donations and each team designates a person for each leg to make the arrangements for food and overnight stays.
“I am on the executive team for my team and I’m considered a leg leader,” Schroeder said. “There are four of us leg leaders and we are in charge of finding hosts where we can sleep. I have a section of the route where I need to call businesses, churches, YMCA’s, campgrounds to figure out if they will donate space for us to sleep and then I need to call places to see if they will donate food for us to eat.”
Team members come from all over, so each individual is left to train and raise money on their own and for Schroeder the thought of cycling long distances had never crossed her mind though has always been athletic.
“I have basically never biked in my life,” she said. “I grew up on a farm, so I had the small bike. I don’t think I ever had a tricycle of anything like that, but my sister taught me how to ride a bike.
“I basically signed up for this to make a different, not about the biking. So, when I found out I got it I didn’t panic, but I could have easily panicked.”
Schroeder received a training guide from the organization, which she has been following, and also received a bicycle from Trek, who donates to the 4K for Cancer.
“Right now, we are all individually training on our own and fundraising on our own, but as a team we do get updates every once in a while that say,” she said. “We have group messages set up, so we can kind of support each other through it, but mostly it’s individual.”
Along with training her body to conquer 4,000 miles on a bicycle, Shroeder, and the rest of her teammates, are required to go through training got learn road safety, bicycle mechanics, first aid and CPR.
“They recommend you learn some of the stuff on your own before you get there and then June 3-4, before we take off, those are two mandatory training days where we will go through policies and procedures,” she said.
Along with the four bicycle teams, the organization is also sending two teams of runners to cross the country by foot. The running teams cross in segments, meaning they run a certain distance and will then be driven, while doing their community outreach.
Of the money raised, 90 percent goes directly to the Ulman Cancer Fund with a small percentage going to administration and advertising. The cancer fund is also in charge of mapping out the routes each team of cyclists and runners will take.
This won’t be Schroeder’s first time raising money for cancer. In 2013, she organized Shave-tober in the Muenster University Center lounge where the event shaved 128 heads, 127 inches of hair, and raised $26,000 for Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hair pieces for children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
“That was kind of the first thing that flared up my interest in advocating for cancer awareness,” she said.
Schroeder said she has not been personally affected by cancer, but that doesn’t mean she can’t make a difference for those who have.
“I am riding this summer because there are so many people affected by cancer, I want to be the voice for them,” Scheoder said. “I don’t think they really have time to be a voice while they are fighting cancer, first off, or they are fighting with their loved one who is battling cancer going through the financial process and all of those decisions.”
She is hoping the 4K for Cancer teams will help connect community members to provide scholarships, chemotherapy care packages and emotional support anyone in those communities who may need or want it.
“While I am not effected by cancer doesn’t mean I’ll never be, so during this time I want to be that voice while I have time,” she said.
To follow Schroeder in her journey, or to donate to the cause, visit her blog at Onesmallbike.wordpress.com.
“People can help, not only just with their donations by donating money, they can also help with events that I have going on if they want to help fundraise or sending in names so I have people to ride for,” she said. “I’ve received a few dedications that have been sent into me. I’ll have days where I am riding for people, but I really want this to be something where the community connects and I’m able to ride each day for someone else’s loved on who has been effected by cancer.”