While many students spend their summers as interns in their field of interest, Chelsea DeBernardis decided to spend hers biking —across the United States.
A junior at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, she is participating in the 4k for Cancer bike ride, during which she’ll spend 70 days riding more than 4,000 miles from Baltimore, Md., to Seattle, Wash.
“I'm riding with 26 other college-aged students from all over: Ohio, Florida, California, Washington, Oklahoma, New York, Pennsylvania, and even Colombia! We all clicked instantly and get along so well — they're like my family,” she said.
Each day, the students wake up and ride an average of 70 miles, DeBernardis explains. “Some days [we ride] as low as in the 40s, some over 100. We ride through rain, wind and heat over 100 degrees, just not thunder and lighting.”
When they aren’t riding, the students are participating in community service-oriented projects across the nation.
DeBernardis originally heard about the 4k for Cancer ride from a friend who had applied: “It sounded like such a fun and special opportunity to see the country and stay in shape this summer. I've always found volunteer work fulfilling, but in the beginning, the community service was just a perk. It wasn't the thing pushing me to apply to be a 4k rider.”
After spending several hours reading through the ride’s website [4kforcancer.org], learning about its mission and history, reading over rider profiles, and checking out pictures from previous summers, DeBernardis became really interested in participating.
“Reading the stories about how cancer has affected the lives of the other 2012 riders was enough to motivate me to apply. I knew that some of my older family members had struggled with cancer in the past, but I was so young when they were diagnosed, and I've never thought to ask my parents the details,” she said. “When my parents and I got to talking, I learned that cancer has affected my family in more ways than I thought. Cancer is a horrible part of this world, but I believe that through the worst in things, we see the best in people. I am honored to be a part of the 4k Seattle team.”
According to her blog, which she updates during her ride, DeBernardis is riding specifically for her maternal grandfather, who had colon cancer and passed away; her paternal grandmother, who had lung cancer and passed away; her paternal grandfather, who has bladder cancer and still manages to go bowling every week; her Great Uncle Carroll, who is struggling with lung cancer; her Godmother and Aunt Chris, a breast cancer survivor; her Aunt Susann, a breast cancer survivor; and her Aunt Carol Jean, who passed away in September shortly after being diagnosed with liver cancer.
Follow DeBernardis’ blog as she finishes her journey biking across the nation.