Texas 4000 Bike Tour Rooted in UT Engineering Legacy

Daniel Walk was just a freshman in 2006 when he saw a flyer posted outside of an engineering building about a summer charity bike ride from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska.

Texas

2010 Texas 4000 for Cancer Team at their destination in Alaska.

Walk was intrigued with the Sense Corp Texas 4000 for Cancer ride, which was founded in 2004 by a then biomedical engineering student at the Cockrell School of Engineering, Chris Condit, and is currently made up mostly of University of Texas students who do the annual ride to educate and raise funding for cancer and cancer research.

Walk, 22, initially thought the ride had all the makings for a summer adventure, but it also gave him a chance to promote awareness for a disease that he one day plans to research.

“And I wanted to give people hope,” said Walk, now a biomedical engineering senior at the Cockrell School of Engineering.

On Aug. 13, after more than 4,500 miles of sometimes grueling heat, rainstorms and steep mountain climbs, Walk and 52 other UT students completed the trek and were met in Anchorage by the city’s mayor, Dan Sullivan, who read a proclamation naming Aug. 13 as Texas 4000 Day in Anchorage.

And, for the first time, Texas 4000 – which has raised more than $1.5 million dollars for the American Cancer Society and The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, among other organizations – plans to give back to the department where the organization got its start.

Giving back to UT

Texas 4000 board members last fall began to explore the possibility of funding cancer research being conducted on the Forty Acres. Working with a development officer, they explored several cancer-focused research initiatives before deciding to support cancer research efforts within UT’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. Texas 4000 plans to make a gift to BME in spring of 2011.

“We’re excited to give back to UT, but we’re more excited that UT is at a place where we can give,” said Jamille Ruebsahm, executive director of Texas 4000. “We wouldn’t give to UT unless is it was truly impacting the fight against cancer and the fact that the Biomedical Engineering Department has received grants from other significant institutions makes us excited and proud that we can give back to the school it did originate from.”

“Start something to make a difference”

Chris Condit

Chris Condit

Condit, the organization’s founder and a survivor of childhood Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was an undergraduate in the BME department when he got the idea for Texas 4000 while vacationing in San Francisco. He spotted a group of students from Johns Hopkins University loading bikes into a truck. After visiting with them, he learned they had finished a cross-country ride, which impressed him. A year later, he was at Posse East, a north campus restaurant and bar, watching Lance Armstrong win his fifth consecutive Tour de France.

“Lance Armstrong had cancer and now has a foundation. I had cancer too, and I thought, I could also start something to make a difference,” Condit said.

Along with assistance from his wife Mandy, who was also a UT engineering student at the time, and a number of other university students who helped with logistics and planning, Condit established the Texas 4000 ride as a student organization. Today, it’s a full-fledged organization, where Condit worked as the executive director before passing the reigns to Ruebsahm in order to go back to school.

Condit serves as a Texas 4000 board member and is a graduate student working in a lab that focuses on development of optical devices to monitor glucose levels — increasing both efficiency for medical workers and comfort for patients.

Understanding the impact

Daniel Walk

Daniel Walk

Like Condit, Walk plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in cancer research once he graduates this spring.

For all of his months preparing for the trip – from 6 a.m. rides, sometimes up to 100 miles long, to meeting the fundraising requirement to do the trip of $4,500 per rider – Walk said the ride and its cause became personal when he met people battling the disease. It was even more so when his uncle was diagnosed with myeloma, a cancer of the white blood cells, in November. Recently, his uncle completed his last round of chemotherapy.

Walk said the ride has changed his outlook on what is possible within the field of cancer research and it has made evident to him how every bit of support for research, however small, can make an impact.

“Start something to make a difference”

“Talking about the dollars raised each week in the classroom doesn’t really breathe the reality of why we’re doing this and the actual cause and effects,” Walk said. “A few times we had researchers –some from UT – come in and talk to us about what they’re working on and how they change the realities for cancer patients. That made the biggest difference [in outlook] for me.”

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Want to know more? Sense Corp Texas 4000 for Cancer will hold its 7th anniversary of the ride at its annual Texas 4000 for Cancer Tribute on Aug. 28 at 6:30 p.m. The event will be located at the Hyatt Regency, 208 Barton Springs Road. The event includes a silent auction, music, dinner and dancing.

 

 

 

Videos and blogs from the 2010 Texas 4000 team

Andrew King

Mechanical engineering student Andrew King discusses why he joined Texas 4000.

UT Cockrell School of Engineering students who participated in the 2010 Texas 4000 for Cancer ride.

Joel Bixler — Biomedical Engineering
Samuel Kutscha — Mechanical Engineering
Jinyang Liang — graduate student in Electrical & Computer Engineering
Rosie Trevino — graduate student in Biomedical Engineering
Andrew King — Mechanical Engineering
Tyler Mann  — Mechanical Engineering
David Santino — Graduate student in Civil Engineering
Taylor Smith — Biomedical Engineering
Daniel Walk — Biomedical Engineering