Every mile matters
UND student and Sleepy Eye native Mariah Salfer is riding more than 4,000 miles across America this summer to raise money for young adults affected by cancer
At 7 a.m., on Sunday, June 5, a student from the University of North Dakota began a life-altering task.
Along with college-aged adults from across the country, UND’s own Mariah Salfer, a sophomore from Sleepy Eye, Minn., is embarking on a 4,000-plus-mile journey from Baltimore to Portland, Ore, to raise money for young adults affected by cancer as part of the “4k for Cancer” fundraising effort.
Salfer decided to bike across America for everyone affected by cancer, but specifically she’s thinking about her grandfathers, both of whom have battled cancer. She has also witnessed several members of her community battle cancer over the years.
Cycling with Salfer
Traveling more than 4,000 miles in 70 days is monumental undertaking that requires precise planning. Beginning in Baltimore, the riders will travel to Waynesboro, Pa., the first day. Over the next four days the riders will travel between 50 - 120 miles a day, taking a rest day on the June 9.
During Salfer’s rest days, she plans on communicating with UND University and Public Affairs to provide updates of her journey across America. Be sure to keep an eye out for new articles detailing Salfer’s journey at UND.edu/news.
In addition to Salfer’s involvement with 4k for Cancer, she’s also part of “Love Your Melon,” a nationwide organization whose goal is to donate funds to pediatric cancer research. The Love Your Melon Campus Crew for UND has 20 members.
Salfer has been training since January. While training has been difficult in regards to the weather and a full course load, Salfer remained determined and continued to train. During the winter months, Salfer would ride up to two hours a day on a stationary bike indoors.
Once the weather began to warm up, and the snow and ice began to clear, Salfer was back on her bike. Typically, only taking one rest day a week at first, Salfer eventually lowered her training routine to three or four rides a week. However, despite fewer rides, she greatly increased her distance.
“The longest (ride) I’ve done so far was 78 miles,” Salfer said. “It was cool because I got to bike to both my grandparent’s houses and I got to visit my grandpas. I dedicated those training days to them.”
The 4K for Cancer effort is hosted by the Ulman Cancer Fund (UCF), a group that, among other things, strives to raise awareness of cancers prevalent in young adults. UCF wants to “change lives by creating a community of support for young adults and their loved ones impacted by cancer,” as described by its website.
The group also provides transportation services to hospitals, financial assistance with fertility preservation and is currently building a UCF house for patients and family members to stay while undergoing treatment.
Over the past 14 years, the 4K for Cancer has raised more than $4.5 million, $1 million of which was raised in 2015. With a goal of another $1 million for the 2016 ride, Salfer is gearing up for a 70-day ride that will end in Overlook Park in Portland on Aug. 13.
During the trip, the 4K for Cancer riders will be delivering scholarships to those affected by cancer, as well as care packages containing a blanket, back scratcher, socks, puzzle books and toiletries. The donations collected by the riders before and during their ride will go toward both the scholarships and care packages.
Along her journey, so far, Salfer has been assisted by several friends and family. Along with those close to her, local Scheels stores also stepped up and made a donation.
In February, Scheels donated shorts, a jersey, a helmet and other bicycle accessories to aid Salfer on her cross-country ride after she submitted a donation-request form to the company. Scheels offered their support, stating they were proud to assist a young, local rider with a noble cause.
“At Scheels, we’re all about healthy lifestyles and giving back to the community,” said Stacey Dimmler, an events coordinator for Scheels. “We’re happy to support her in her journey to raise money for those affected by cancer.”
Salfer will be carrying a list of several different people she plans on dedicating portions of her ride to. With as many as three dedications in one day, Salfer will be pledging her time to more than 70 individuals in all.
Salfer admits she’s very excited, but also very anxious about the journey ahead.
“I’m just a mix of many emotions…apprehensive, really excited, nervous,” Salfer said. “I don’t know anybody that I’m going to be biking with and some of these people already know each other because they signed up with friends or are from the same area so they’ve been able to train together.”
Still, Salfer remains positive while keeping her goals in mind as she endures the ride of her life.
“I want to do anything I can to help someone,” Salfer said. “To make their life a little easier, a little more fun and a little more enjoyable.”
University & Public Affairs writer