Virginia Tech students unite to fight cancer

vtech-logoLast year, Patrick Acker of Midlothian, Virginia, a senior majoring in industrial and systems engineering in the College of Engineering, founded and made an inspiring bicycle journey across America to raise funds and awareness for cancer research and patient support.

This year, Cycling4aCure is back with new a new plan, direction, and partners.

Virginia Tech fraternity Alpha Tau Omega Theta Delta chapter has selected Cycling4aCure as its official philanthropy. Their goals include raising $10,000; donating 30 or more bicycles to children with cancer; completing a 200-mile bike trip from Blacksburg to Charlotte, North Carolina; and holding a benefit concert this spring.

“We did it once, and we are about to do it again,” said Acker. “Cycling4aCure is back and the best is yet to come.”

Cycling4aCure and Alpha Tau Omega kicked off their philanthropic partnership Oct. 30. Their first project is to donate 30 bicycles to children battling cancer just in time for the holidays. More information about the effort is on the group’s Facebook page.

Acker founded Cycling4aCure when his grandmother passed away from lung cancer. He was determined to do something to honor the legacy of the woman he called his best friend.

With characteristic perseverance and entrepreneurial drive, he partnered with Cindy’s Hope Chest, a non-profit cancer support program. He reached out to businesses to gain sponsorships. Acker created promotional videos and made presentations to countless organizations. He researched possible routes, charted the course, and spent 30 hours each week in training.

In the summer of 2013, Acker began his journey in San Francisco. The trip took him through deserts, mountain ranges, and busy highways. He rode 120 to 130 miles each day.

His courage was tested by flat tires, blocked roads, and high temperatures. The 125-degree heat in the Mojave Desert was the hottest summer on record. He climbed to elevations of more than 7,000 feet.

“Anything could have happened,” Patrick said. “Someone was looking over us.”

He stopped at hospitals where he delivered donated bikes to children with cancer. When he met a 12 year old cancer survivor, he said he thought to himself, “If he can do this, I can do anything.”

Acker’s unrelenting spirit paid off. Forty-six days and 3,342 miles after he began, he hit the Atlantic Ocean and received a hero’s welcome in Virginia Beach. In memory of those who have battled cancer and in honor of those still fighting, Cycling4aCure raised more than $17,000 for the American Cancer Society and Cindy’s Hope Chest.

For his perseverance, initiative, strength of character, and innovative approach to serving and honoring others, Patrick Acker was recently presented the Division of Student Affairs (http://www.dsa.vt.edu/) Aspire! Award for embracing Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) as a way of life.

One of his nominators called him a superhero.

“Superheroes use the adversities in their lives as fuel to pursue a more humane world,” the nominator wrote. “Patrick’s journey and his spirit are an inspiration to all the warriors who are still fighting cancer and to all people that have a dream of making a difference in the world.”

Another nomination came from his fifth-grade teacher. “The example that Patrick has set for our students cannot be measured. He came and spoke personally to each class and the entire school. He is a wonderful model to young people of how it CAN be done if you want it badly enough. We are so very proud of him — of what he has done, and who he has become.”

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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