Inspired by a teenager who died from a rare form of cancer in 2013 and the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation her family started, four young men from Chapel Hill will bike across the northern tier of the United States to raise money for the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Support Program, which offers individualized services and support for adolescent and young adult patients facing a cancer diagnosis.
The cyclists – Evan Malinchock, Wes Malinchock, Brian Richardson, and Chris Zammit – began their trek May 23 in La Push, Washington, and will spend ten weeks biking to Bar Harbor, Maine.
The four cyclists will attempt their feat without vehicle support. Their goal is to raise more money than BikeLoud ’15, when Carrboro’s Boy Scout Troop 845 cycled from the Pacific coast of Oregon to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina to raise $40,000 for the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation, which was founded in honor of Sophie Steiner, who was diagnosed with germ-cell cancer in November 2012, and died nine months later at age 15.
Before she died, Sophie asked her parents to help other adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer. She wanted them to create something entirely new: support programs specifically designed to help patients her age hold on to their identity in the face of overwhelming illness. Her family worked tirelessly with the UNC Lineberger Cancer Support Program to establish the AYA program in 2015.
In their own words:
Evan Malinchock: I wanted to do this trip because I grew up seeing my family and friends experience the best summer of their life, and I took up cycling for this very reason. It would be a full circle moment that I was living for!
Wes Malinchock: I wanted to do the trip because I did it once before and it was a great experience, and I have wanted to do it again ever since then. When I found out I had a gap between my college graduation and the start of my job I jumped on the chance to join!
Brian Richardson: I was introduced to the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation in 2015 when I did a similar cross-country bike trip and fundraiser. During that summer, I fell in love with life on a bike and I realized how important the mission of Be Loud! is. After four years, I decided that I could not wait any longer to hit the road again. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to help Be Loud! for the second time.
Chris Zammit: I have always been drawn to adventures and volunteering. As a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, I have actively participated in Habitat for Humanity because I believe it’s important to invest in our community. When I learned about the bike trip this summer, I was first drawn in by the adventure and then Brian informed me about their mission — riding for Be Loud!, and that it was a local foundation that works to improve the lives of young adults and adolescent cancer patients. I believed that this would be a great opportunity to saddle up for an adventure and to give back to my local community.
Written by Mark Derewicz