INDIAN TRAIL – From the time Patrick Acker found out his grandmother had lung cancer in 2011, he wanted to do something to fight cancer and inspire those battling the disease.
Now a rising junior at Virginia Tech University, Acker recently hit the road for a nearly two-month journey to raise money for cancer research and support for patients. His endeavor, dubbed “Cycling4aCure,” is benefitting local nonprofit Cindy’s Hope Chest, which provides counseling, wigs, mastectomy bras, grocery errands, child care and other services free of charge to breast cancer patients.
Acker’s vision for Cycling4aCure was to start cycling from the West Coast and make his way across the country to Virginia Beach, Va. His goal was to raise awareness of cancer research while also encouraging people to donate.
“I thought it would be kind of cool to do something like this … to go cross-country for an organization,” Acker said.
Because Cycling4aCure wasn’t a nonprofit, Acker needed a fiscal sponsorship from an official nonprofit to ensure contributors could receive tax exemption for their donations. Acker connected with Cindy’s Hope Chest through his cousin, who knows the nonprofit’s founder, Cindy Summers. Summers agreed to sign on as Cycling4aCure’s fiscal sponsor, and funds raised through Cycling4aCure will be split evenly between Cindy’s Hope Chest and the American Cancer Society.
Acker spent nearly one year training, preparing for his trek across the U.S. After a road trip from Richmond, Va., to the West Coast, Acker and fellow Virginia Tech student Morgan Bissell mounted their bicycles and set out from San Francisco, Calif., on May 27 for a 3,400-mile coast-to-coast trip.
The two teammates spent the next 45 days traveling across 13 states – California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia – cycling as many as 12 to 13 hours each day. Family members took turns driving a travel trailer, where Acker and Bissell slept during their voyage.
Along the way, the duo visited hospitals where they met children diagnosed with cancer. They also donated a total of10 bicycles to four different hospitals and got to be there when one 12-year-old cancer patient received his bike.
“It gave me chills to know we’re making a difference in this child’s life,” Acker said. “This kid is getting part of the fundraising we’ve put into this. It’s not just about being out there on the bike; it’s showing kids fighting cancer they have the strength to beat what they’re up against.”
After weeks of cycling anywhere from 80 to 115 miles each day, Acker and Bissell arrived in Indian Trail on Sunday, July 7, and paid a visit to Cindy’s Hope Chest.
“That morning, I got to meet 15 to 20 people Cindy knew and has helped,” Acker said. “It was exciting getting to meet some of the people she’s helped who have beat cancer.”
Acker and Bissell were expected to reach Virginia Beach on Thursday, July 11. So far, they’ve raised about $11,000 through donations they’ve collected from friends, family members and even strangers along the way.
Donations are still coming in, Acker said, and the team hopes to reach its $20,000 goal.
Of the many things he’s learned along the way, Acker said perseverance is high on the list. Toward the beginning of his journey, he and Bissell traveled through the Mojave Desert for a number of days, where temperatures reached 115 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. But the team took on the challenge and pressed on, knowing everything they were doing was for the cause.
“If you put your mind to do it, you can do it,” Acker said. “It’s been fantastic.”