Dale is a sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park. In the summer of 2012 he is riding with a group of college students on a 70 day, 4000+ mile bike ride from Baltimore to Portland.
What is your connection with the cancer community?
Last summer, I backpacked around China with some close friends. We hiked up precarious mountains and trekked through one of the world’s deepest river canyons close to the border of Burma. To me, this invaluable opportunity to connect with nature was only surpassed by the human connections I formed. I met dozens of my relatives from diverse walks of life, but the common factor that they all shared was an unreserved generosity. In the city of Xi’an, my aunt strolled up to me and thrust an expensive gift into my arms. When I thanked her and offered to reimburse her for some of the cost, she turned tail with surprising agility and evacuated the area as if the victim to a deal gone bad. Bewildered for a moment, and then oddly confident that she would accept some semblance of repayment if I caught her, I gave chase. Picture a small, elderly Chinese woman with a determinedly defiant expression running away from yours truly on the side of the street, chasing her with outstretched hands offering cash. This hit-and-run hospitality was commonplace among all my relatives. Sadly, I was recently told that one of my aunts was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, cancer is not an unfamiliar occurrence in my family. My grandfather died of cancer when my dad was only 10 years old, orphaning him.
Why are you riding the 4K for Cancer?
My story of generosity and hardship is not unique to just me. I don't need to tell you about the pervasiveness of cancer or the tragedies it can inflict. I don't need to tell you about the worth of giving to a greater cause or the good that it can spread. I bet parents especially understand this well: helping others grow helps ourselves grow. When happiness arises, we share and amplify the joy; when tragedy strikes, we share and divide the burden. People with cancer face an incredibly solemn and unparalleled challenge, but they do not face it alone. Just as I know I will embark on this long, difficult journey thinking of the friends and family who helped me reach that point, they will be thinking of the extraordinary unconditional kindness of strangers—your kindness— that inspires them to keep on fighting. By riding with the 4k for Cancer, I want to remind myself of the wonder, excitement, and mystery ahead of us all. We’re all exploring, trying to find out as much as we can about the world and make our marks. Too often, I become complacent and take for granted that the world can wait while I distract myself with the trivial. Too many times, I overvalue my own problems, which is not to say that personal challenges aren’t important but just regularly laughable in context of the rest of the world’s troubles. Ultimately, we all have individual challenges and continually overcoming them is what allows us to grow. And just as we share the burden of tragedy and the joy of happiness, we also share the drive to surpass challenges. When pedaling these thousands of miles from coast to coast with my muscles on fire, heart pounding, and lungs desperate for the next breath, I will be enduring that pain because I know what follows is worth it. When I imagine seeing America’s jagged snow-topped mountains pointing into the sky, her rusty-orange canyons that hold the history of millennia past, her rivers and lakes waving pristine, and when I imagine meeting those people with whom I share it all, it makes me understand why those particularly tough challenges are worth overcoming and why we should help each other do so. A small portion of the proceeds I raise goes to supporting my ride and the rest goes to the Ulman Cancer Fund and numerous charities the 4k for Cancer supports throughout the country.