ST. CHARLES – Recent St. Charles East High School graduate Marie Hubbard has seen too many people affected by cancer.
The 19-year-old University of Illinois freshman will be biking from New York City to San Francisco this summer as part of the Illini 4000, a nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting the American cancer experience through The Portraits Project, raising funds for cancer research and patient support services as well as spreading awareness for the fight against cancer through annual cross-country bike rides.
"Our mission is to raise awareness through the bike trip, but we also raise money for support programs as well as research," Hubbard said.
The Illini 4000 was formed in 2006 by University of Illinois students Anish Thakkar and Jonathan Schlesinger, who saw a lack of funding for cancer research. The two organized and participated in the inaugural ride in the summer of 2007.
Hubbard will be part of the Bike America team. Another Kane County resident, University of Illinois senior Erin Tevonian of Batavia, is also part of the team. The team has the goal of raising $150,000 for organizations like the American Cancer Society, Camp Kesem, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the Ishan Gala Foundation and cancer researchers at the University of Illinois.
As part of the ride, Hubbard and her fellow teammates will interview people affected by cancer in an effort to portray the battle against cancer.
"We interview survivors, caretakers and people with it right now," Hubbard said. "And we just kind of get their story. We upload those online to our huge database of different people and their stories. That's something we do before the ride and also during it."
For Hubbard, who admitted she is not an avid bike rider by any means, the upcoming 4,789 mile cross-country ride will test her physically.
"I don't know if I've ridden more than like 10 miles on a bike in my life," she said.
Hubbard and her fellow teammates will take a train to New York City, where the ride will start in May. The ride is set to end in early August.
Her parents are supporting her efforts.
"But they are mad about not being able to see me all summer," she said.
During the trip, Hubbard said she is looking forward to having the chance to visit places she's never been before. Above all, Hubbard said she wants to make a difference.
Hubbard will start training for the ride after spring break in March. She knows the trip will be challenging.
"What people on past teams have told me is that the hardest part is when it's really windy," she said. "It feels like you are trying just as hard, but you're not going anywhere. When we get out west, there's a lot more mountains, obviously. That can be pretty tough, too. On some of the rides, you will climb like 5,000 feet on your bike in a day. It takes like five hours to get up the hill and then like 20 minutes to go down. The first week is in upstate New York, where it's very, very hilly. So we get kind of thrown right into it."
People can donate by going to illini4000.org/riders/mhubbard/ and clicking on the donate button. The ride will be documented on the Illini 4000 Facebook page, illini4000.org as well as Hubbard's Instagram page, instagram.com/mariehubbardd.