As reported by the Star-Herald, July 14, 2011.

Cyclists Riding Coast to Coast for a Cure

By Rick Willis

Heat, hills and headwinds decided the speed of three cyclists Wednesday as they passed through the Panhandle on a ride from San Francisco to Connecticut.

James Alex, Gregory Herbert and Tom Williams, first year-medical students at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, left the west coast on June 19 and headed east. While 18 miles per hour is the average speed they ride, they are looking at a much bigger number — $30,000 — to help fund cancer research.

“We’d like to raise $30,000 to $50,000,” Williams said. “The bigger the better.”

The three men raised $16,000 for Lea’s Foundation for Leukemia Research prior to their ride, and hope to raise awareness, and funds, for the foundation along the way.

George Economos, a director on the foundation’s board, lost an older sister, Lea, to leukemia in 1998. He said he’s thankful for the job the bikers do.

“We’re a grass-roots organization that works hard to raise money and equally as hard to make sure it gets into the right hands for research,” Economos said. “We also help local people with expenses because there’s no sense in finding a cure if the people can’t get there to take advantage of it.”

Economos follows the riders via their blog at http://www.coasttocoastforacure2011.blogspot.com. The cyclists also upload a GPS tracker each night so sponsors, family, friends and givers can follow along.

On Tuesday, the cyclists rode 148 miles through summer storms and high winds to rest in Torrington for the night. On Wednesday, they rode from Torrington to Oshkosh, stopping at Chimney Rock long enough to snap a photo.

The first-year medical students are taking one of the last summer vacations they will have free for several years. It’s a small price to pay, they said.

“We didn’t give up summer vacation,” Alex said. “This is the perfect summer vacation.”

Herbert said that they would most likely have been doing lab research during the summer and the foundation is a worthy cause. He also pointed out, while purchasing two huge sandwiches at Walmart in Scottsbluff, that the ride is a workout.

“We have a healthy appetite,” Herbert said. “Shaklee electrolytes keeps us fueled; Nathan hydropacks keep us hydrated.”

Along the way they try to trim expenses and collect donations so more money is available for research.

Economos said he’d like to be able to help the guys raise more funds, but his time is constrained by working for the family business that contributes to the foundation. As he reads the blog while the cyclists are on the road, he gets a little choked up at the kindness they find along the way.

“We follow the stories through the years about the wonderful people they meet along the way. They let them camp in yards; give them a bedroom and a shower. One time they slept on the floor of a general store,” Economos said. “Then they get east of Ohio and people are a little cynical. I don’t like that.”

For more information about Lea’s Foundation for Leukemia Research, log on to www.leasfoundation.org.