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February 19, 2013 > An inspirational Ride Against Cancer

An inspirational Ride Against Cancer

By Jessica Noel Flohr

People of action seem few and far between. It is much easier to philosophize about how to better the world than to put plans into motion. Individuals may dream of ways to help their community, but are at a loss as to how to make those dreams reality. Those few brave souls who are doers are rare gems indeed.

Christopher Chan is one of these rare gems. When he was just four years old, his father, Harvey Chan, was diagnosed with sarcoma cancer. Sarcoma is a rare form of cancer, comprising only about one percent of diagnoses in the nation in a given year. There are several different types of sarcoma, commonly treated with surgery or chemotherapy. Chris's father survived eleven years after his initial diagnosis before succumbing to the disease when Chris was 15.

The effects of the diagnosis, the struggle with the disease, and Harvey's eventual passing sent ripples throughout the Chan family and their community. Friends and extended family gathered together to support Chris, his older sister, and his mother. Chris found a wealth of support through his friendship with fellow American High School classmate, Arvind Mahesh.

When the two friends were just 13, Chris and Arvind began dreaming of a way to support a greater cause. Chris felt a strong pull to contribute to something important in his life. It started out as a pipedream, but over the course of two years progressed to a detailed plan, complete with publicity and sponsorship. The boys decided to attempt a long-distance bike ride, the Ride Against Cancer, to raise donations for cancer research.

The trip would start in Astoria, Oregon, and end in San Francisco, California. Once the word started to spread, Chris and Arvind were contacted by potential sponsors such as REI and Cliff Bar. The ride took about two weeks to complete, with a goal of 60 to 80 miles a day. Chris says that his favorite part of the project was connecting with complete strangers. People would hear about the trip and greet them along the way, offering their homes for an overnight stay. The personal stories were moments to treasure.

Chris and Arvind completed part one of the Ride Against Cancer together. They raised over $10,000 for the National Foundation for Cancer Research. The ride began on July 11, 2010 and ended on July 23. A benefit rally, welcoming them home, was held at American High School. The following year, Chris made a second journey on his own from San Francisco to Salt Lake City, Utah. He towed a small wagon behind his road bike, which carried food, tools, water, and other necessary gear. After the second leg of the tour was complete, Chris had raised a total of over $20,000 toward cancer research.

Family and friends were very supportive of this young man's dream. Everyone pitched in, spreading the word and offering donations. Along the way, Chris had the opportunity to speak to local officials, politicians, and community members who were touched by his selfless act. "Communication was a great part of the trip," says Chris, who would strike up a half hour conversation with a gas station attendant on one of his stops.

"It started as a naive idea to support a greater cause. Having passion means a lot to me and I hope to continue to grow in that. I want to set the bar higher, taking longer rides and raising more money," Chris says. He hopes that his journey instills a sense of passion in others to actively support good causes. He says, "Instead of just saying on Facebook what is important to you, maybe you can actually go out and make a change."

In fall, Chris began a new journey - that of college life. He is an entering freshman at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he plans to study communications and economics. His mother, who was exceptionally supportive of her son during his long-distance ride far away from home, is also his moral support for this new chapter of life. In addition to his studies, Chris plans to attempt more long-distance rides in the future.

Chris received help in his inspiring endeavor with a scholarship from the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF), which serves to help young adults continue their education after being affected by a cancer diagnosis. To learn more about UCF scholarships, visit: http://www.ulmanfund.org/scholarship.aspx.

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