Student bikes across America for cancer

Halle Stephens 4K for Cancer

by Rachel Rayner
Over a span of 70 days, Halle Stephens, Arapahoe, Neb., will bike from Baltimore, Md., to Portland, Ore., to raise funds and awareness for cancer.

Stephens, a junior majoring in music education at Fort Hays State University, named her bike "Vivace," an Italian term used by musicians to indicate "lively" or "fast." Vivace rides for a specific cancer patient or survivor each day, whose name Stephens writes on the back of her leg.

"I want them to know that I am thinking of them every time I bike," she said. "A lot of times as I'm biking up some steep hill or mountain I will whisper to myself 'It's not for me, it's for them.'"

Stephens is participating in 4K for Cancer, a program created by the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, where people bike or run across the United States to raise money to assist young adults battling cancer. This year's program exceeded the $1 million goal by more than $300,000. Bikers must raise $5,000 in order to go on the trip, which Stephens did by giving organizing benefit concerts in which she sang and played guitar.

Stephens has known about the program for many years because the bikers always travel through her hometown. She had never considered participating until her family hosted two bikers last summer.

Her parents, Kip and Senja Stephens, have supported her decision to join the program. While 4k for Cancer provided her jerseys and bike, her parents bought her equipment, drove her to Baltimore and will pick her up in Portland. They are also paying her rent while she is unable to work during the summer.

Senja said that she is amazed by the selflessness of the riders.

"They're giving up a lot of time and energy. They ride from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. sometimes," she said. "They don't always get a hot shower."

She said that the bikers also don't carry any food with them, so every time they want a meal they have to approach people to ask for donations, which provides them with the opportunity to educate people about their mission. Their meals vary from home-cooked dinners with their host families to Wendy's chili in a laundromat while they dry rain-soaked clothes.

"They like to joke that they go around begging for food," said Senja.

Stephens has to get up at 4:30 every morning to eat breakfast and prepare for the day's ride, which on average is between 60 and 100 miles.

"Even if I just want to sleep in or maybe not bike that particular day, I have to because that was the commitment I made to not only myself, but to my team," said Stephens. "I think that this is similar to a cancer patient because they don't have the option to just get up and not fight. They do it on a daily basis."

The bikers interact with cancer survivors and patients in a variety of ways. They take chemo care packages to patients in hospitals and give scholarships to cancer survivors who were not able to attend college due to their treatments.

One of her team members had cancer and has been in remission for a year. Stephens likes hearing stories about how he found his strength when he was going through treatment.

Her teammates are Stephens' favorite part of the trip.

"I think we all have a similar quality because we all want to do this crazy bike-across-the-country thing," she said.

The bikers tell one another stories and jokes to get themselves up steep mountain roads. Even though she could walk faster than she is biking sometimes, she said that the satisfaction of reaching the top of a mountain is indescribable.

"I have learned that I'm much stronger than I was giving myself credit for," she said. "I didn't have the confidence to climb mountains or hills, and now I do."

To follow Stephen's journey visit her blog at

For more information about 4k for Cancer visit

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