News Local/State

Illini 4000 Riders Stop At U Of I Campus During Cross-Country Trip

U of I Chancellor Robert Jones and the Illini 4000 bicycling team.

Arms raised, University of Illinois Urbana campus Chancellor Robert Jones calls on members of Illini 4000 to give themselves a hand, as they arrive at the Beckman Institute on the university's Urbana-Champaign campus on Tuesday. The Illini 4000 team is bicycling from New York City to San Francisco this summer on their annual trip to raise money fro cancer research, awareness and patient support. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

The Illini 4000 are 20 bicyclists who are spending the summer cycling from coast to coast, to raise money for cancer research and support groups. Some University of Illinois administrators joined the group of mostly U of I students Tuesday morning for their ride from Rockville, Indiana to the U of I's flagship campus in Urbana.

The cyclists disembarked in front of the university’s Beckman Institute in Urbana. Chancellor Robert Jones, Vice-Chancellor for Advancement Barry Benson and University of Illinois Foundation President/CEO James Moore was among them. Like the regular cyclists, they wore the Illini 4000’s orange and blue jerseys.

Jones turned to face the riders, clapping his hands above his head.

“Give yourself a hand, guys!” said Jones, as the other cyclists joined  him in clapping. “You’re amazing!”

Speaking later at a reception, Chancellor Jones said he enjoyed the camaraderie of the student cyclists, who he said had given him the nickname of Sir Chance-A-Lot. But on a more somber note, he noted the likelihood likely that everyone in the room knew someone who had been diagnosed with cancer.

“It affects us all, either directly or indirectly”, said Jones. “And I certainly believe that the Illini 4000’s are helping to change this narrative with this ride, and we’re very, very appreciative of that.”

A cyclist who also spoke at the reception voiced a similar sentiment. Lauren Sargeant of Park Ridge says cancer research has been a constant part of her studies at the U of I --- she just received her bachelor’s degree in bioengineering. But Sargeant says cancer has touched her life in other ways as well.

“I know family and friends and teachers who have been affected by cancer”, said Sargeant. “And so this ride really moves it forward and gives that social aspect to kind of the entire experience.”

The Illini 4000 is a student-run project which has holding its annual fundraising ride since 2007.

The Illini 4000 riders left New York City on May 18th, with a goal of reaching San Francisco on August 3rd. After resting a day in Champaign-Urbana, the Illini 400 team is scheduled to ride to Kankakee on Thursday.

Each rider has raised a minimum of $4,000 from sponsors, for the American Cancer Society, Camp Kesem, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the Ishan Gala Foundation and cancer research projects at the University of Illinois.

Illini 4000 also uses donations to fund its Portraits Project, in which people across the country who have been affected by cancer are profiled in photographs and recorded interviews.

According to the Illini 4000 website, the riders have raised over $85,000 so far, and their fundraising efforts are continuing toward a goal of $150,000.