Illini 4000 stops at Alma during cross-country bike ride


Ryan Fang | The Daily Illini

Illini 4000 members in front of the Alma Mater on June 10.

By Atoosa Sayeh

The Illini 4000 stopped at the Alma Mater to take a break from their 4000-mile cross-country bike ride on Tuesday at 3 p.m.

The non-profit organization consists of student bikers who document the American cancer experience through the Portraits Project and raising funds for cancer research while taking annual bike rides across the nation.

“Each year, we ride 4,000 miles from New York to San Francisco to raise money for cancer research and cancer supporting programs,” said Hannah Burkhardt, media coordinator for Illini 4000 and University alumna. “This year, I think our exact mileage is 4,519 miles, so we’re doing a little bit extra.”

The bike team started their ride on May 24 in New York City and will finish at Niagara Falls 10 weeks later. In addition to riding, the team will blog and update people about their Portraits Project.

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Ben Wooley, ride leader for Illini 4000 and University alumnus, said the Portraits Project is a way for the team to display the stories of people who have been affected by cancer.

“While riding, we interview people who have experiences with cancer because it is one of those experiences, unfortunately, that most people have,” Wooley said. “So as a side project, we have the Portraits Project, where we’ll collect stories from people all across the country from all different backgrounds and kind of get a feel about how cancer affects everybody.”

Ashley Young, member of Illini 4000 and senior in Engineering, said the team is trying to use the Portraits Project as a “network for people who have been affected with cancer.”

Young said riders will use media to create entries for the project. The stories can be found on the team’s website.

Along with interviewing people, the riders get the chance to meet people from different backgrounds in the places they stay in.

“One of the coolest things about doing something like this is that you meet the most amazing people you couldn’t even imagine,” Wooley said. “The cooler part of the ride than even riding the bike is the kind of people you talk to and the interactions you’ll have, whether it’s in a big city or a small town.”

Illini 4000 started in 2006 after two students had the idea to fund cancer research by creating a team to bike across the country. Each rider is personally responsible for fundraising $3,500 to participate in the ride. So far, the team has reached $800,000 for cancer research and patient support services.

According to Wooley, the bikers who participate in Illini 4000 do it for different causes. 

“There’s kind of three sides of what we do here,” Wooley said. “We ride bikes, we raise money to help fight cancer, and we interview people and hear their stories.”

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