Physical pain hopefully is a temporary condition. To be a child diagnosed with cancer, the pain may never leave.
Thanks to the efforts of a group of eight dedicated teens and their four adult chaperones, the awareness of childhood cancer is growing.
The members of Team Will Charity are biking from Sacramento, California, to Knoxville, Tennessee, this summer to help raise funds and awareness for patients suffering from cancer.
This is the sixth year for the project and team members said in one way or another they all had known a cancer patient.
“We are in pain for maybe five hours a day on a ride,” team member Josh Scarberry said. “For the children who are suffering from cancer they may be in pain for days, weeks and months on end. For many of them a hospital bed is all they may ever see.”
Team member Isamu Kawaguchi was riding in memory of his little brother, Kenji, who died when he was 12. Kawaguchi said Kenji was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at age 5 and “passed away” at age 12.
Adult team member Cate Lewis keeps a picture taped to the support brace on her bike as a constant reminder of Kenji and his struggles.
Maddy Widman, 17, said she rides because at a young age she was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis x.
“It’s rare,” she said. “It only affects 1 in 15,000 people.”
She was “cleared” of the LCHX before she entered high school, but wants to help other children.
The team members, who went to different high schools in California, trained on their own for years before joining the team.
“We are all athletes in some form,” Melanie Holst said. “Some of us ran track or golfed, we all do different things but we have come together for this cause because we all know someone with the disease.”
Members ride between 30 to 80 miles a day depending on the weather conditions and the terrain where they are traveling.
“The Rockies were incredibly beautiful,” Sean Meyers said. “But the drought in Colorado and the incline made it a really difficult ride.”
The team members take rest breaks throughout the day and frequently schedule them around their hospital visits.
“We don’t stop at every children’s hospital we come to,” Scarberry said. “A lot depends on the hospital and how willing or open they are to allow us to come into their facility.
“Even if we can’t go in to visit patients we always try to make contact with them and leave a good impression at the hospital because it is so important that we try to open up more opportunities for others,” he added.
The impressions that the members make often come in the form of homestays. The members frequently stay overnight in the homes of families who they have met through their social media.
Team Will Executive Director Ken Scarberry said the program was begun in honor of William Keifer, who died of a rare form of cancer, Rhabdoid Tumor of the Kidney, at 17-months-old in 2004.
“A group of friends rallied to do something to remember him by,” he added.
“When we rode Mt. Diablo, I was in awe,” Scarberry said. “I think we all were.
“When I looked at it; that’s when I knew I was making a difference for others.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.
Fath Bemiss can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext 1481.