BLACKFOOT– Most people have heard the song "500 miles" by The Proclaimers, proclaiming love would make him walk five hundred miles twice, but how about 4000+ miles on a bicycle? A group of students from Texas are doing just that. A labor of love is driving them to ride thousands of miles across the country from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska to give hope to those that have been touched cancer. Texas 4000 was founded by Chris and Mandy Condit in 2004. Chris a cancer survivor was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma when he was eleven years old. Cancer free, Chris along with his wife Mandy have continued the fight against cancer by founding Texas 4000 who's mission is raising funds for cancer research while teaching awareness and bringing hope throughout the continent. Believing that the creation of the longest charity bike ride in the world is the most appropriate way to fight one of the nations greatest killers, Chris and Mandy set off on their inaugural ride with 43 students from Austin, Texas, out of the lower forty-eight to Anchorage, Alaska. At the end of their first ride, they presented the American Cancer Society with a check for $112,000.

This is much more than just a bike ride. The students involved are competitively selected for an 18-month program where they learn to be the next leaders in the fight against cancer. Each student raises $4500, rides 2,000 training miles, and volunteers more than 50 hours in the community. Each student is expected to help in the planning of the ride to Alaska. As quoted from the recruitment site,"We look for students with a passion to fight cancer, previous organizational involvement, good communication skills, and a demonstrated ability to work well with a team. Believe it or not, previous cycling experience is NOT a requirement and the fundraising, training and volunteering all take place BEFORE the summer ride even begins." The extensive training program centers around the, "Eight Foundational Skills"; Self awareness, communication, resiliency, efficient planning, peer respect, situational leadership, technical knowledge and skills, and finally vision/action. All of this is to help the student, in becoming the future philanthropists of america.

Since that first trip in 2004, three additional routes have been added to the extensive bike ride; the Rockies, Sierra, and Ozark's Routes. Starting off all together in Austin on, "Day Zero," friends and family are encouraged to join in the ATLAS ride; for first day of the 70-day journey, everyone is welcome to ride alongside the students to get a feel for what's in store for the ambitious young riders. Then on day two the group splits in three teams: Sierra, Rockies, and Ozark's for the respective routes. The additional routes help the riders reach more communities with their message of hope. All teams meet up later in Canada to ride the last nine days together to Anchorage.

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome is the logistics. All riders are required to secure their own accommodations, food arrangements and lodging is not provided. Most students are helped out by the communities they pass through on their arduous journey, relying on the generosity of host families , churches and schools for shelter. They are even set up for a night under the stars when the need arises. On Wednesday June 28 one of the teams of riders will be here in Blackfoot. Making a stop for the night on their honorable adventure, Blackfoot Christian Fellowship has been kind enough to host these weary travelers for the night. Providing a safe and warm place to sleep for the evening and providing dinner and breakfast the next day to see them on their way. If you or someone you know would like to meet this brave team, come say hello. If you would like to donate time or food for the meals contact Blackfoot Christian Fellowship at (208)785-3247. Some of the students have food allergies please contact the church for more information. Hosts for the team to be able to shower would be greatly appreciated too. Theses young men and women have been on the road for a long time and so have their support crew, a hot meal and shower would be the least one could give someone helping others. If you would like to know more about Texas 4000 you can visit their website at www.texas4000.org.

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