Crossing the country for a cure |

Crossing the country for a cure

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

WEST GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Judy Penati’s grandfather and aunt have battled cancer, but that’s not the first thing she mentioned to explain why she chose to cycle cross country to raise money to fight cancer.

The Johns Hopkins University sophomore-to-be had other reasons for applying to part of this summer’s incarnation of the Hopkins 4K For Cancer, an annual cross-country ride with a mission of raising funds for and spreading awareness of the fight against the oft-deadly disease.

“I was kind of inspired by the people who did the trip before me, and it’s such an incredible cause,” said Penati, who along with a team 24 others ” most college students ” enjoyed a night’s respite at the Church of Christ in West Glenwood Springs Tuesday. “Also the thrill of biking cross country, knowing I can do it.”

That’s not to say her grandfather and aunt don’t often find their way into Penati’s thoughts, nor her in theirs.

“I know they check out the blog everyday,” the neuroscience major said, referring to a journal housed on the Hopkins 4K website, “A lot of people do. I didn’t expect that so many people would check it out.”

This summer’s Hopkins 4K team is the seventh to trek from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., to San Francisco, Calif. Co-founders Leah Blom and Ryan Hanley, both JHU students, started the entirely student-run effort back in 2001, and it’s blossomed into quite the annual operation.

Twenty-five cyclers and three support vans make the two-month, 4,000-mile trip tick. Depending on terrain and the day’s conditions, riders log from 70 to 110 miles a day and make temporary homes of churches, community centers or schools in various communities along the way.

But, when idle, the Hopkins 4K-ers do more than just catch up on sleep.

“We hold community dinners, we’ll sit down the community members and interact,” said Daniel Ingram, who’s cycling as well as handling media relations duties for the team. “It depends on the community.”

Due to last-minute lodging complications, such functions weren’t on the Glenwood Springs agenda for the Hopkins 4K team prior to its Wednesday morning departure for Paonia.

The group of riders ” most from JHU ” have heard countless touching tales along the way. Some from people at the community functions and others simply in passing.

“One woman was just saying how her daughter is fighting one kind of cancer and her niece is fighting another,” Ondrej Juhasz, a 2006 JHU grad, recalled. “She asked if we could dedicate our ride to her family.”

Ride dedications are a ritual for the Hopkins 4K group. Every morning, before cycling off to their next destination, riders form a circle and dedicate the day’s pedaling to someone touched by cancer ” whether it’s a person they know personally or someone they met along their summer journey.

For most, it’s the people with whom they cross paths that make the trip.

“It’s been great,” said Ben Margolis, a pre-med major at JHU. “We’ve stayed in a school building with no one around. We’ve been in a school building where the principal came and cooked us all dinner. We’ve been in a church with 25 to 30 people. It’s all about hearing stories and spreading awareness.”

And that might just mean more than the $100,000-plus they hope to raise for various cancer organizations.

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