Illini 4000 for Cancer

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Illini 4000
The 2012 Illini 4000 Bike America Team
The 2012 Illini 4000 Bike America Team
Abbreviation I4K
Motto Uniting Students, Families, and Communities in the Fight Against Cancer
Formation 2006
Type 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization

The Illini 4000 (I4K) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to raise and donate money in the fight against cancer as well as expose cancer's role in modern society to the public.[1] The organization has now raised over $500,000, which was donated to the American Cancer Society, Camp Kesem (a summer camp for kids whose parents have been affected by cancer), and a number of organization involved in cancer research and patient support services. Each summer since 2007, the Illini 4000 sends between 20–25 students on a 4,000 mile cross-country bicycle trip, beginning in New York City and ending in various cities on the west coast. In addition to the bicycle trip and fundraising, the organization also interviews cancer survivors for a multimedia Portraits Project. Furthermore, the Illini 4000 is the subject of the documentary, What People Do.


The Illini 4000 began as an idea between two University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students, Jonathan Schlesinger and Anish Thakkar. While both studying abroad in Spring 2006, Anish, who had been involved with early cancer detection research, thought that there was not enough available funding for cancer research. Schlesinger, who had been affected by cancer by a family member, also wanted to contribute to research funding.[2] Upon returning to campus in Fall 2006, the students combined their love for cycling with their determination in the fight against cancer and the Illini 4000 was born. The organization began as a registered student organization at the university but soon became a 501(c)(3) Non-profit organization.[3]

Bicycle trips[edit]

Every summer since the Illini 4000 was born, the team sends 20-25 students on a cross country bicycle trip. Each group of riders is named the Bike America Team and completes the journey beginning in late May and finishing in early August. Each day, the team rides between 40–110 miles with a support vehicle carrying their supplies. Before the ride, the members of the organization contact churches, community centers and schools for the possibility of using their facilities for a stayover for the night. Between those places and camp grounds, the team is able to find either a free or cheap place to stay. Also, once a week, the team is given a rest day in which they do not bike. These days give the team a chance to relax and explore the town of the stayover as well as visit hospitals and meet doctors and cancer survivors. In the past, the Bike America teams have been able to visit the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., the UIC Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.[1][3]

In summer 2007, the first Bike America Team was on the organizations's first cross-country trip. The trip started in New York City and ended in San Diego, California with 18 people riding. In 2008, the 20 rider bike team rode from New York City to Seattle, Washington. In 2009, the 23 riders rode from New York City to Portland, Oregon. For the 2010 ride, 28 riders biked from New York City and finished in San Francisco, California. From 2011 through 2014, the Bike America Team rode from New York City to San Francisco, with the 2012 Team riding through Washington D.C.[1][3]

Fundraising and donations[edit]

The organization has chosen the American Cancer Society Research Fund and Camp Kesem to be the recipients of the majority of the fundraising they have done.[4] The organization has also donated to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the Ishan Gala Foundation, and the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. Before the riders were able to participate on the 2007-2009 bike rides, they were required to raise $2,500 from either corporate or personal donations.[5] For the 2010 ride, this amount was raised to $3,000 per rider, though riders since 2011 have had to raise $3,500. In addition to this fundraising, the organization also collects money during the summer ride. In 2007 and 2008, the organization gave $50,000 to the American Cancer Society and $5,000 to Camp Kesem. From money raised before and during the 2009 ride, they gave $52,000 to the American Cancer Society and $7,500 to Camp Kesem.[3]

Portraits Project[edit]

While the fundraising and bike journey are the main components of the organization, the Illini 4000 is also putting together a multimedia presentation based upon interviews of cancer patients and survivors entitled the "Portraits Project". The basis behind the project is that "everyone has a story to tell" and to show the relevance that cancer has in American society.[1][6] The team video and audio record each interview which is then transcribed. When the project is concluded, all interviews will be free to the public. Selected pieces from the collection were on display at the University of Illinois's Krannert Art Museum in 2011. During the 2012 ride, the Team collected sixty portraits, with the last portrait- of one of the team members- conducted on the last day of the ride. The project is constantly evolving and growing each summer as more interviews are completed.[3] The website, is now up and running.

What People Do (film)[edit]

During the summer 2007 ride, documentary filmmaker Zachary Herrmann followed the Bike America team across the United States as he created the documentary What People Do. The film was made for the production company Films That Move which is entirely made of volunteer filmmakers from across the country.[7] The filming took place over the course of 4 months, in 7 states and gathered 35 hours of footage.

What People Do was the first film created by the production company. The goal of Films That Move is to make films that generate emotion while inspiring the audience to take action for a social cause.[7] They chose to follow the Illini 4000 based upon the politically divided state that the country was in at the time. While on the journey, the filmmakers documented the generosity the team found during their nightly stayovers as well as stories from the riders and their hosts. The goal of these stories is to show that regardless of the condition of the country, there are still issues that can unite the population.[8]


External links[edit]