Student to navigate country for cancer aid

Brandon Zeris, Features Editor

Pitt-Johnstown Sophomore Luke Mitchell is to participate this summer in a nationwide bike ride to raise money to help cancer patients.

There are three different groups Mitchell said. Each group of riders begins in Baltimore and concludes their journey in one of three destinations: Seattle, Portland, Ore. or San Francisco.

Mitchell said the event, a 4,000-plus mile ride, is held during the summer, a reasonable time for most participants since they are typically between 18 and 25 years old in college.

“We all start on May 27 in Baltimore, and it lasts 70 days. We start off the same but our paths diverge pretty quickly. I’ll be going to Seattle.”

Mitchell said the event is a good way for him to combine a personal interest and a good cause.

“I like biking a lot. I’ve actually biked from here to Washington, D.C., so it’s definitely something I enjoy.

“And, cancer is so pervasive and affects so many people, so I figured this was a good way to combine interests.”

Interim ride coordinator Stephen Hersey said there is only one major requirement to partake in the event.

“There’s a $4,500 minimum donation required to be a part of it.”

Although not every dollar goes directly toward charity, Hersey said most does, and some funds are used to cover ride-associated expenses.

“Out of every dollar donated, 83 percent goes toward charitable organizations through the Ulman Cancer Fund. The rest goes to cover salaries of some of our staff and other things.

“Each rider is given a bike for the ride, so that takes up a fairly large amount, and we spend some money on equipment repairs and other things to make sure our riders are safe.”

Out of the projected $500,000 total earnings, each group is to be given $20,000 to donate to people and organizations along the way, Hersey said.

“There is a discretionary fund set up where each group gets money and they get to choose where to donate it along the ride. It’s up to the riders.”

One of the most generous contributions is donated food and shelter, Hersey said.

“All food and lodging is donated to us along the way. Each group has several leg-leaders along the way.

“Before we arrive at a place, the leg-leader calls six or seven places and finds people that are able to give us a place to stay: usually YMCAs, churches and hotels.

“They also find places that are able to donate meals.”

Charitable funds often go to scholarships given to younger cancer survivors and treatment for those currently suffering, according to Mitchell.

“It can also go to help pay for a family to stay in a city while someone gets treatment,” he said.

“The ride itself is also a great way to inspire people.”

Although he said he has begun raising money, Mitchell has not met his $4,500 minimum donation.

“I’m still thinking of ideas, but I want to hold a fundraiser on campus to raise money and awareness since I don’t think many around here are aware of this,” he said.

“I’m looking for a fraternity or sorority to help hold an event.”