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East Coast cyclists hit area on their way to West Coast

More than two-dozen students spent Tuesday in Lake Lillian as part of a bicycle ride across the U.S. to raise money for cancer programs. The students began their trek in Baltimore and will conclude it in Seattle. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

LAKE LILLIAN -- As supper time approached Tuesday, so did 27 bicyclists ready to join area residents for a meal, some conversation and a chance to rest.

The cyclists had pedaled 89 miles from Minneapolis, but that was a just a little more riding than a typical day for the group of mostly college students.

They have been riding their bikes most days since they left Baltimore in late May with a goal of covering the more than 4,000 miles to Seattle in 70 days.

Lake Lillian's visitors are one of three teams riding in the 11th annual 4K for Cancer, a program created to involve young adults in uniting the communities they visit in the fight against cancer.

After nearly a month on the road, they are seasoned cyclists, but few of them began the 4K that way, Casey Gannon said.

"There were a handful of people who had done some decent training," said Gannon, who hails from Montpelier, Vt., and just graduated from St. Mary's College of Maryland.

"The first week was boot camp for a lot of people," he said.

For the privilege of enduring long days pedaling from town to city, riders must raise $4,500 for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

During the ride, they also visit cancer patients, attend community dinners and make cancer awareness presentations.

All three teams begin their 70-day rides in Baltimore where a group of Johns Hopkins University students whose lives had been touched by cancer organized the first ride in 2002. The other two teams are riding to Portland, Ore., and San Francisco.

While they ride most days, the young adults also do service projects, said Cali Caughie of Seattle who is a student at Western Washington University.

In Minneapolis, for example, they worked at a Hope Lodge, a free home away from home for cancer patients and their families who have to travel long distances for treatment.

"We might be fixing up the place," Caughie explained.

But they also meet the people living there and, sometimes, entertain them.

In Lake Lillian, where the team also stopped last year, it was the riders' turn to be entertained. Members of the Great Times Band from Willmar performed vintage rock tunes on the stage at the town's old school building as town residents set up a potluck.

Many of the cyclists got up and danced.

Churches, YMCAs and community members who open their homes host the riders each night, Gannon said. They usually hold potluck dinners and provide a breakfast the next morning.

Team members wing it for lunch.

They use one of their two support vans to precede the riders and ask for food donations.

So far they haven't spent a dollar on food, Gannon said.

That means more of the money they raise will go to the fight against cancer.

The teams have raised nearly $500,000, and reaching that threshold would be a major accomplishment, Caughie said. "That would make it the most money raised by a cross-country charitable ride."


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Gary Miller

Born and attended public schools in Willmar, Minn. Served 20 years in U.S. Navy as a photojournalist. Worked at West Central Tribune since retiring from the Navy in 1994.

(320) 214-4344