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Running for cancer

By Ella Bock


For most, summer road trips across the U.S. are largely spent sitting in a car making various stops at national parks and state tourist attractions. For some, a cross-country road trip means running more than 4,000 miles relay-style and sleeping in the homes of those willing to extend hospitality to support the Ulman Cancer Fund.


The relay, 4K for Cancer, is coordinated by The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, an organization dedicated to creating a community of support for young adults and their loved ones affected by cancer. The organization raises money to provide free support services to the young adult cancer community.


Public health junior Mackenzie Johnson and IB GSCOM senior Jack Bowling participated in the run during the summer of 2016. Both felt that although cancer affects a lot of people, it is not widely discussed. Participating in the 4K addressed this issue, while also combining their passions for service. 


Johnson was the leg leader of her team, meaning she was responsible for finding food and accommodations for its members. It was no easy task, especially in Austin, Nevada.


“We were in a town of, like, 215 people. The whole school district had 25 kids,” Johnson said, describing a town with two bars, two gas stations, and no restaurants. “The gym didn’t have air conditioning or Wi-Fi; dinner was a 10-pound bag of uncooked chicken they had to figure out how to cook in the kitchen. It felt like we were in a zombie apocalypse digging through drawers.”  


Honors international studies sophomore Eleanor Mooney will participate in the run this summer. Of the two teams participating, Team Baltimore and Team New York, she chose Team Baltimore because that’s where the Ulman Cancer Fund’s headquarters is located. Both teams start in San Francisco, and end in the city for which they’re named. Mooney heard about the run from a fraternity brother, Bailey Wilhelm, of Alpha Kappa Psi. Wilhelm participated in the run during the summer of 2016. 


“Her enthusiasm was contagious and I immediately decided it was something I wanted to participate in,” said Mooney, who swam and ran throughout high school and began running more intensively when she started at USC. “It combined my love for running with my desire to help give back to the community perfectly. It was like it was made for me!”


The annual run is completed in two-mile increments relay-style over the course of seven weeks. A group of runners is dropped off by a van at a starting point and runs two miles, then gets picked up by the van where another group of runners is dropped off to continue. A group may run between six to 16 miles per day. Along the way runners sleep in houses, churches, and school gyms where they usually are provided with food.


Rest days are scheduled every four to six days, during which participants volunteer at cancer facilities. The Ulman Cancer Fund awards two young adults impacted by cancer with a scholarship during the run.


Participants in the Ulman Cancer Fund’s 4K for Cancer raise money before the run. Learn how to donate through these links:



Above, left to right: Mackenzie Johnson, Bailey Wilhelm, and Jack Bowling.