Jasper Curry will soon be embarking on what may yet be the most challenging journey of his life.
He’s trained hard and he’s no newcomer to competition. He’s raced sailboats since he was a fourth-grader at Anna Maria Elementary School — an Optimist, Laser and 420. He has also taught sailing, and he earned a spot on the University of Florida sailing team.
On May 27, he and 29 others will leave Baltimore for Portland, Ore., as part of a larger group of 90 riders heading to Seattle and San Francisco to benefit the nonprofit 4K for Cancer.
Supporters have backed Curry with more than $5,000 in pledges, and the money raised will help underfunded cancer patients to continue their treatments, he explains.
Curry just finished his sophomore year at the University of Florida where he is majoring in economics with a minor in business.
And for the past six months, in addition to studying and working with an investor group in Gainesville, he’s been preparing physically for his trip, averaging 150 miles most weeks on bike paths around the college town.
Curry is well prepared for the emotional part of his journey, as well. He is confident, yet humble. He says he’s looking forward to how “the ride will hopefully inspire hope in others.” It’s been “a great motivator for me.”
He became interested in the bike ride after viewing it on Reddit, a social news media website, “just after casually surfing the net,” he says.
The 4K for Cancer bicyclists will meet hundreds of people who have experienced cancer. They will travel an average of 75 miles daily to different towns — with break days about once a week — where they will participate in presentations, dinners and other activities, such as free cancer screenings.
Before the event, each rider is paired with people they’ll be meeting on the trip. And during the trip, patients and riders keep in contact.
“When we get to their town, we will finally meet them in person and get to know them better,” Curry said.
All 90 cyclists — equipped with a bike and appropriate gear from the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults — will depart Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Curry’s group to Portland will head north and west through Pennsylvania, Ohio and the Midwest, and meet the San Francisco-bound group in Boulder, Colo., for the July 4 holiday. From there, they’ll ride through Wyoming Teton National Park, south to Salt Lake City, and then west through Idaho to Oregon.
Their itinerary identifies their first stop in Waynesboro, Pa. Other cities on the journey include Pittsburg, Chicago, Omaha, Neb., Denver, Laramie, Wyo., and Eugene, Ore.
Support vans ride along with the cyclists, who eat and sleep along the way courtesy of schools, churches, restaurants and others.
The 4K for Cancer was launched by students at John Hopkins University in 2001. After seven years of affiliation with Hopkins, and three years as its own nonprofit, 4K for Cancer became part of the Ulman Cancer Fund, a group dedicated to fighting the effects of the disease in young people started by Doug Ulman, a three-time cancer survivor, first diagnosed at age 19. He is president of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Curry hasn’t met Ulman but, with a big smile, says he hopes to someday.
Like the undergraduates that first started 4K for Cancer, Curry will be seeking to combine his desire to fight cancer in memory of a lost loved one with a dream of cycling across country.
In the last few years, Curry lost “two very important people in my life due to cancer,” his grandmother who died “despite receiving some of the best treatment in the world,” and family friend, Randal Stover of Anna Maria, who was a “second dad to me.” He showed Curry the world of cars, auto shows, drag races and motor cross events.
He’s dedicating his ride to both Stover and his grandmother.
“This will obviously be an emotionally charged summer for me,” he says.
Inspiration for Curry also has come from the supportive community of Anna Maria Island, he says. His teachers and counselors at Anna Maria Elementary School were the “very best.”
“You couldn’t ask for a better place to go to school,” he says.
Cindi Harrison, guidance counselor at the school, “was definitely a big influence on me. She always made time to talk and support me through my studies,” he says.
What’s stuck with him over the years is her story about how stepping on ants is bad. He remembers her asking, “Would you want to be stepped on?”
“It makes me think about things from other people’s perspective,” he says.
He’s also been thinking about his ride from various perspectives. “I am sure this ride will be the most physically and mentally demanding endeavor I have ever set out upon,” he says.
But, without hesitation, he says he’s ready and armed with a passion to look at things from the perspective of those ants.
During the trip, Curry will be blogging at www.4Kj.posterous.com. For more information about 4K for Cancer and the cross-country trip, go online at www.4KforCancer.org.