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Bicyclist takes detour for a cause

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Having reached a goal of finishing college with a major in business, Liverpool Township resident and Buckeye High School graduate Nick Conway wanted to do something different before he began his work career.

He found it with 4K for Cancer.

The 24-year-old is preparing for a marathon bicycle ride that will start in Baltimore, Md., and end in Portland, Ore., and raise funds for the 4K program that offers scholarships to young adults with cancer.

Conway is taking what he said is a gamble by delaying entering the work force after interning at J.M. Smucker Co. in Orrville.

Conway said he enjoys distance running and has completed marathons in Cleveland and Columbus. During college, he expanded his fitness routine to cycling, taking after his parents, who belong to a cycling group.

His first event with a team was raising money for multiple sclerosis with a 150-mile event called Pedal to the Point, a two-day journey from Brunswick to Sandusky and back.

“I found a little bit of a home with cycling,” Conway said.

Cycling 150 miles is one thing. But in the 4K for Cancer event, Conway will be cycling every day for 70 days.

The training part is not daunting for Conway, who said he always has been athletic and has run marathons. Building strength and endurance for cycling long distances, he said, is similar to running — merely adding more and more distance until a goal is reached.

When he heard about the 4K for Cancer program, sponsored by The Ulman Cancer Fund, he decided that needed to be his mission.

As part of the experience, Conway will read scholarship applications, choose recipients and ride with a team of 23 cyclists — 12 men and 11 women, ages 18 to 26. They will meet cancer patients along the way and do volunteer work at hospitals.

“It’ll be an eye-opening experience, I think,” he said.

Riding for a cause

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults is a nonprofit organization founded in 1997 by Doug Ulman, a three-time cancer survivor. He was diagnosed in 1996 at age 19 with chondrosarcoma and malignant melanoma twice while he was in his sophomore year of college.

HOW TO HELP

Liverpool Township cyclist Nick Conway plans a cross-country trip to raise money for cancer patients. He has quotas to meet each month until June. If he doesn’t meet each month’s quota, he pays the difference between what was promised and what was raised. His next deadline is Friday and his goal is $3,500. As of Wednesday night, the amount raised was $2,920. Donors may contribute at www.4kforcancer.org/profiles/nicholas-conway. Conway will document his journey this summer on Facebook, www.facebook.com/nick.conway.52.

Deciding that treatment services seemed to center on children or elderly patients, Ulman wanted to develop an organization that would benefit a 20-something adult taking treatments while going to school.

In 2001, the fund began working with the 4K for Cancer program. Last year, the 4K for Cancer program brought in more than $1 million, with 90 percent going to young adults with cancer. The money was used in many ways — from fertility preservation to college scholarships to groceries.

“The money doesn’t go to a research umbrella. It will go to an actual individual,” Conway said.

How the ride works

The cross-country cycling event consists of four teams of 20 to 30 people. All cyclists start in Baltimore but each team will finish in a different city on the West Coast — San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle and Portland.

Over the 70 days, the team members will spend nights in their sleeping bags for “probably 90 percent of this trip … if not more,” Conway said.

Team members are calling churches along their route to find hosts. The map calls for travel through 60 cities in the 70 days. Each week they will have one off day to relax.

Two vans — a “head” and a “tail” — will accompany each team. The head van will set up water stations and carry light luggage.

Right time, right event

Conway said the opportunity to join the program began from a conversation with a former cyclist who took a job right after college graduation. The friend told Conway that, in retrospect, he wished he had waited to start his career.

That stuck with Conway.

He said he thinks of the fundraising, the training and the detail work as if it were an entrepreneurial challenge similar to finding investors and generating start-up capital.

He compared it to starting a company, noting that being part of a 23-person team defines character, too — something he hopes will help him in the work-a-day world.

Whatever happens once his business career begins, Conway said he believes that people with skills can find their way.

“There is more opportunity out there than there was 20 years ago,” he said, thanks especially to technology.

But the future isn’t as important to him right now as the present.

A goal is set. There’s an assignment to complete.

“We are going to meet a lot of people who have cancer … someone just like me, but they don’t have the opportunity to go out and experience life,” Conway said, “because they have to focus on trying to be healthy again.”

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