By Sherry Reddick, Multicultural Engagement Center
Multicultural Engagement Center students Andy Escobar and Martiza Ruiz Rodriguez will start the world’s longest charity bike ride in May. The Livestrong Texas 4000 will take Andy and Maritza from Austin to Alaska, a total of 4,500 miles, in 70 days.
They will join about 90 other UT-Austin students for this adventure, camp in alumni backyards and at designated stops, and eat lots of peanut butter sandwiches in order to raise money for cancer research.
“I’m feeling confident and nervous,” said Andy, who is a Radio-Television-Film and Latin American Studies double major. “Confident in that I have a lot of support and I know I can do great things, but also nervous. I think about the two big F’s: Fitness and Fundraising. I’ve never been physically active, and so doing this is going to be a life changing experience. I’m going to have to step up my game and get into fitness. I’ve exercised more than I have any time in my life.”
This fall, both riders will start training more intensely by biking with other team members on weekends, and later participating in a Spring Break ride. Although, the terrain, wind and nightly camping will take getting used to there is one obstacle they hope to surpass first. They must each raise $4,500 for cancer research.
The riders’ first deadline is this September and already Andy has garnered several hundred dollars panhandling locally and at Houston Pride 2013. While, Maritza has written solicitation letters and, with the help of her mom, sold tamales out of her apartment. They both still have a ways to go.
“Other members have already made more than the requirement like $9,000, and with school coming up I’m anxious about fundraising,” said Maritza, a Marketing and Psychology double major.
Maritza is dedicating her ride to her uncle who has battled cancer, while remaining an optimistic and inspiring presence in her life. Andy also is riding for several of his family members who are cancer survivors. As first generation college students they also want to raise awareness about the disease in the Latino community, in other marginalized communities, and to let others know that there are resources available. At the same time, Andy would like to recruit more students of color to become riders. In fact, he encouraged Maritza to apply this year.
“When you think about cycling Black, Latino and Asian people don’t immediately come to mind,” says Andy. “The bikes, jerseys, helmets and saddles are very expensive. You need about another $2,000 to pay for gear, for equipment and for the plane ticket to come back. That is a lot for someone like me so I really shouldn’t be doing this, but I want to pave the way for others.”
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the charity ride. As the year progresses riders will be divided into three teams that will travel through one of three regions of the United States known as the Rockies, the Sierras, and the Ozarks.
Although, the trip is sure to be a highlight of each rider’s college experience, it will culminate Maritza’s time as an undergraduate as she is scheduled to graduate in May. If you would like to give to cancer research through Texas 4000 please visit Maritza and Andy’s profile page to make a tax exempt donation.