After traveling by bike for 70 days and more than 2,500 miles of American soil, Andrew Jirik, junior in management, will have toured the country all in the name of raising awareness for cancer one state at a time.
As a member of the organization 4K For Cancer, Jirik will ride in a group of 22 other college students from Baltimore, Md., to San Diego, Calif., in the span of nearly two and a half months this summer.
“Every morning of our ride after we’ve packed our equipment from out host home we host a dedication circle, Jirik said. "This is a moment for ourselves where we dedicate the ride to a friend or family member who is battling cancer. We also share stories with our hosts as well as volunteering at hospitals and connecting with patients in the form of gift baskets on our days off.”
Before Jirik begins his journey, the road to fundraising and gaining awareness will start with the Colleges Against Cancer’s Relay for Life from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Friday.
“During Relay for Life, for every dollar that’s donated, I’ll be biking a minute," Jirik said. "This Friday I’m going to start when the relay begins and hopefully I’ll make it 10 hours. I have to fundraise $2,500 before I can set out on my trip."
Functioning as a national and international event across many universities, Relay for Life is a 12-hour event that aims to raise funds for cancer research and cancer patient help through a multitude of activities.
“We have several events per year, but everything definitely leads up to Relay for Life,” said Jordan Schill, senior in marketing and one of two presidents for Colleges Against Cancer. "All of our efforts will be staying in line with the goals of the American Cancer Society.”
The night will begin with an opening ceremony, where families who have been affected by cancer can share their stories with students, but as the event progresses students are encouraged to participate in activities and shows in order to keep spirits high.
“We have cheerleaders, a female a capella group, mass musical chairs, Zumba and drum line," Schill said. "Our goal is just to keep everyone happy and energies high."
At 10 p.m., the Luminaria Ceremony, one of the biggest events emotionally for students involved in the program, will celebrate those who lost their lives to cancer.
“The is the emotional side of Relay," Schill said. "We’re having fun all night trying to raise money but we also honor those who beat cancer and those we unfortunately lost. We turn down the lights and line the Lied track with lit paper bags. It gets pretty emotional as most people cry, me being one of them. We hear some stories and then walk the track together in silence.”
Given the far reaching effects of cancer on society, Schill sees the event as an important way to not only raise money but also be able to begin a dialogue among survivors and their friends and family.
“Our event is successful because I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t been affected in some way by cancer, whether personally or through somebody else,” Schill said. "These people want to make a difference and give back and we’ve been able to reach almost $100,000 in fundraising every year, which goes to various research and patient help.”
Given the monumental task of biking for an entire summer, Jirik is thankful for the opportunities given to him through Relay for Life to help those in need.
“I want to thank Colleges Against Cancer for allowing me to team up with them," Jirik said. "It’s difficult with other organizations sometimes to gain fundraising because as myself, I’m not a club. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do nearly as much as I have. Overall, it is a great way to get yourself out there and connect with people and learn through seeing a different perspective.”
Students who want to participate in Relay for Life are asked to raise $100 in support of cancer research but are not required to gain any money to access the event.