Meghan Bathke learned how to ride a bicycle in January 2015. It’s a good thing she is a fast learner, because just six months later she embarked on a 70-day, 4,260-mile bicycle journey to raise funds for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.
Meghan, age 27, is a third grade teacher at Tommie Barfield Elementary School. This summer she joined a group of 29 other young adults in 4K for Cancer, a cross-country bicycle trek whose focus is to raise funds, awareness and provide companionship and service to young adults battling cancer. All funds raised are used towards direct patient support.
The group started their long ride in Baltimore, and ended in San Francisco.
The route took the riders southwest through Virginia, crossing the Appalachian Mountains into Tennessee, then northwest to Missouri, Nebraskaand Colorado. The group rode up and over the Rockies to Utah, across Nevada, Idaho and Oregon. The journey culminated in a ride over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and into their last stop, San Francisco.
On a typical day Meghan would wake up at 5 AM before the sunrise. After completing chores and having breakfast, she participated in a 30-minute dedication circle. Each rider spoke about who they were dedicating their day to. The group shared stories and talked about their purpose. The circle would conclude with a fun cheer to raise spirits. By 8 AM the cyclists hit the road. Every 25-minutes they stopped for water, snacks and bathroom breaks. Each day they covered 80-110 miles, in all weather conditions and terrain.
Not all of the 70 days were spent entirely on the road. Tendays were spent in service. Meghan and her group visited cancer wards and spent time with the young patients. They brought them “Chemo Care Bags,” filled with magazines, crossword puzzles and fuzzy socks. She described how she and the other cyclists sat with cancer patients during their chemotherapy treatments, talking about things “other than cancer.” The bicyclists and cancer patients were all within the same age group, youth to youth.
She said that the experience “gave her perspective.” To get through the physical discomforts of the ride, such as soreness and body aches, she would “think a lot about who you are riding for.”
Cancer has hit close to home for Meghan. Her grandfather James Finkle (“Grampie”) passed away last November after a battle with three different forms of cancer. During the course of the summer, thecyclists wrote names on their legs with sharpie markers to keep them motivated. The names represented who they were riding for that day. Although she added a different person each day, she says, “Grampie was always there.”
Meghan returned from her long journey on a Sunday night. That Monday morning she was back at school, not missing a beat. She says the experience made her “learn so much about myself as a person.” The friendships she made will be lasting, saying that, “the experience shared could not be replicated in everyday life.”
4K for Cancer is a program of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, a non-profit organization that provides support for young adults battling cancer. To date, Meghan has raised close to $5,000 for the organization. For more information or to make a donation, go to Meghan’s fundraising page: www.4kforcancer.org/profiles/meghan-bathke.