Most college students can relate to the stress of studying for exams or finding a full-time job, few have to worry about something as deadly as cancer.
Over 1.6 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 70,000 young adults ages 15 to 39 will make up 5 percent of those diagnosed and many of these young adults lack the financial resources to receive treatment.
A UW student and member of the Theta Chi fraternity Alpha Rho UW chapter, Kyle Charvat, died of brain cancer in 2006 after exhausting every treatment available to him. Despite being cleared for an FDA approved clinical trial that would have extended his life by months, his medical insurance would not cover its $100,000 cost.
The Kyle Charvat Foundation was founded later that year by Charvat’s Theta Chi brothers to assist and bring awareness to college-aged cancer patients. The nonprofit organization pays for expenses, including groceries, medications, physical therapy, and transporting the patients to and from their treatments.
This summer, three of Theta Chi’s brothers are bike riding cross-country to raise awareness for the foundation and its cause.
Theta Chi’s current Alpha Rho president, Josh Bean, whose father passed away in February 2016 from cancer, sees the trip as a means of living by his fraternity’s mission of lending a helping hand.
The majority of cancer charities assist young children, which leaves young adults in a somewhat anonymous group. For college students with serious medical conditions requiring treatment beyond what many insurers will provide, there are fewer places to turn to for treatment.
“I can’t even imagine being a college-age student not having that ability to go and buy your basic groceries or be able to drive yourself because you’re too exhausted from the chemotherapy,” Bean said. “We see this ride as a living embodiment of how our chapter has fulfilled lending a helping hand.”
Sophomore Matt Gaylor sees the ride as a means of continuing the foundation’s legacy of helping students manage the stresses that come with cancer.
“To watch someone so vibrant and so energized just slowly becoming a shell of a person from the brain cancer, I can’t imagine how a family would deal with having their kid go through that,” Gaylor said. “Any help we can give to just alleviate the financial stresses they have so they can really focus on healing and really focus on coming together as a family [is the goal].”
A sophomore and business major at the UW’s Foster School of Business, Nigel Hall wanted to ride in memory of his grandmother, who died of a brain tumor when he was younger.
“We would like to see this continue year after year, maybe get a couple riders going and continually supporting this foundation,” Hall said. “Hopefully this spurs another group of guys to say, ‘Hey, let’s keep doing this, let’s keep lending a helping hand for these kids.’ You can prepare for college, but you can’t prepare for cancer.”
The three hope to raise at least $20,000 during their 40-day ride, which began June 20 in Anacortes and will take them to Boston. Along the ride, they will raise donations from local bike shops and other small businesses they come across during their trip.
Prior to the start of their trip, the three raised over $6,500 for the foundation. The cost of their ride is expected to cost about $3,000 to cover expenses like food and spare tires, a small part of which are supplied by the foundation’s sponsorship deal with Strideline Socks and Curate Snacks.
Every dollar raised during the ride will go to the Kyle Charvat Foundation, which also sells socks specially designed by UW student Jake Larson in cooperation with Strideline.
Cross-country biking is new for Bean, Gaylor, and Hall, who have spent months training for the trip. Bean is mindful of not only the physical challenges the ride will provide over the coming weeks, but the people the trip is designed to help.
“I would just say that cancer’s affected everybody,” Bean said. “We’re going to need support on this ride, but really, the ride is going to support those who are less fortunate, who really need that kind of help.”
Reach reporter Tim Gruver at email@example.com. Twitter: @T_TimeForce