University of Delaware
Pictured are (from left) UD graduates Rachel Wasserman, Emma Rando and Carissa McKinney with Dana Ballis of the San Diego team.

Biking for causes

Hens cycle across America to support cancer awareness, build houses


2:42 p.m., Aug. 19, 2014--Four new Blue Hens who graduated as members of the University of Delaware’s Class of 2014 decided to put their summer plans on hold to bicycle across America to raise money and awareness for young people with cancer and to address housing issues faced by low-income citizens.

Carina Gomez, an art and psychology and cognitive science major from Annapolis, Maryland, joined the Bike and Build 70-day trek from Providence, Rhode Island, to Seattle. The cross-country trip also has included 10 build days, during which riders help with various onsite Habitat for Humanity projects in selected communities.

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Bike and Build volunteers commit to raising at least $4,500 to support affordable housing organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and local nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit the Bike and Build website.

Gomez, who became involved in affordable housing causes while in high school, spent the past two spring breaks participating in the UD Alternative Breaks Program (UDaB), with trips to West Virginia and North Carolina. She will be attending the School of Visual Arts in New York City this fall to earn a master of professional studies degree in art therapy. 

In another cross-country cycling odyssey, three alumni rode in the 4K for Cancer 4,000-mile, 70-day journey from Baltimore to San Francisco. A program of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, 4K for Cancer seeks to empower young adults in uniting communities across America in the fight against cancer through community service and support.

Audrey Zahlis, public relations leader for the San Francisco team, described the trip as “amazing,” and said the riders were pleased with their efforts, but sad because their time together was coming to an end. 

“Our team has been a family since day one, and it’s been so nice for the UD riders to spend time together after graduating in May,” Zahlis said. “The best part has been hearing everyone’s stories and understanding why every person on the team is riding. They all have their own cancer connections, and being able to ride in their honor is incredible.” 

Carissa McKinney, who graduated with an honors bachelor’s degree from the College of Arts and Sciences, became aware of the toll cancer takes when her grandmother and a friend were diagnosed with cancer within the same week. The news of a 22-year-old friend’s cancer diagnosis renewed McKinney’s inspiration to make the current journey. 

Emma Rando’s commitment to helping others with cancer goes back to viewing her mother’s work in the field of cancer genetics and seeing her best friend’s mother become a breast cancer survivor. A friend’s recent diagnosis with an aggressive form of cancer provided the impetus for Rando to dedicate the ride to others who need support. 

Rachel Wasserman, who graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from the College of Arts and Sciences, feels connected to the cancer community because the disease has affected members of both sides of her family, including her paternal grandmother, who died from breast cancer at age 34. 

Wasserman plans on attending graduate school to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner, and hopes that by the time she is working in the field there will be more treatment options and more survival stories.

One of the reasons why the ride was so successful is that the riders were motivated to turn tough circumstances into something positive and impactful, Zahlis said. 

“At the beginning, the trip started out as a personal challenge with the chance to change lives, but it’s turned into something so much more since we have seen the lives we're touching and just how impactful this trip was,” Zahlis said. “We’ve all been able to grow and learn so much through our experiences together.” 

With their goal of “Cycle, Inspire and Unite,” participants hope to raise awareness about cancer, provide community service to cancer organizations across the nation and award 10 higher education scholarships along the 4K for Cancer ride and run routes. For more information, visit the 4K for Cancer website or follow the cyclists on Facebook or Twitter

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults was founded in 1997 to enhance lives by supporting, educating and connecting young adults and their loved ones affected by cancer.

Cadets reach Texas

In other news concerning UD students supporting causes, a group of UD ROTC cadets have finished a Newark-to-Texas run to raise money to help bridge a gap in military-civilian relations. For details, see the Facebook page.

Article by Jerry Rhodes

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