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Texas 4000 — College Students With a Cause: The Ride to Raise Research Dollars

Don't underestimate college kids. Each summer, about 50 students from The University of Texas at Austin saddle bicycles and ride for 70 days from their central Texas campus to Anchorage, Alaska. That's a little more than 4,500 miles. They ride to fight cancer by sharing hope, knowledge and charity. They are young. They are passionate. They are making a difference. One way they're fighting cancer is by raising money to further research. Each rider must raise at least $4,500 — a dollar for every mile. Many raise significantly more. "One person responded to my letter-writing campaign by donating $50,000," says Courtney Somerville, who collected nearly $70,000 in donations for her 2009 ride. The early years were focused on supporting a children's cancer research project at MD Anderson: $100,000 one year, $120,000 the next. Each year's riders continue to select a children's research project to fund, but they also contribute to a longer-term goal. Last year, they were able to endow a $300,000 distinguished professorship that offers perpetual support, allowing a scientist to explore the kind of novel ideas that are difficult to fund. The organization's current goal is to raise $1 million to support MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital and research that holds great promise for revolutionizing personalized cancer care. Why do they do it? Many have their worlds rocked by cancer. Participating is way to do something about this disease. "I was devastated when my mom was diagnosed with lymphoma my freshman year," Somerville says. "MD Anderson became like a second family to my dad and me while she underwent two years of treatment. After she lost her battle in 2007, I applied for the Texas 4000 and was elated to be selected. Being surrounded by so many good and dedicated people was the best possible therapy for my grief." Ruel Bobet says he was more excited about his acceptance for the 2012 ride than he was about getting into UT. At first, he dedicated his ride to his father, but the battle has since become even more personal. In April 2011, Bobet learned he has stomach cancer and joined his father as a patient at MD Anderson. True to the spirit of all Texas 4000 riders, Bobet is driven to ride with his teammates in June. "I support MD Anderson because of the care and support they have provided me and my family," Bobet says. "The institution's efforts in care and research have helped countless families and communities. Aiding in these efforts as a 2012 rider is an honor."
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