That will be life for Danielle Gagne, a former Ohio State women’s hockey player, over the summer as she gets set to ride her bike across the country as part of a cancer fundraiser.
Gagne, a senior this past season who graduated from OSU in May, has raised more than $5,000 as part of her quest to take on the 15th annual 4K for Cancer, a bike ride from one coast to the other that raises money and support for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.
Raising the money is not easy. Biking just over 57 miles per day for more than a month? Pretty difficult, too. And scaling both the Appalachians and the Rockies? About as tough as it gets physically.
But that’s kind of the point. Fighting cancer is much harder than all of those things, so Gagne was inspired to take on the fundraising project after hearing about it from a friend and realizing just how many people in her life that cancer has touched.
“It’s actually amazing how many people are affected by cancer,” she told BuckeyeSports.com. “Obviously you know it’s a big thing and the amount of research that goes on, but you don’t actually realize how many people are affected by it and how closely they are affected by it until you do something like this. It’s eye-opening for sure.”
Gagne traveled yesterday from her home in Ontario, where she has been since graduating in early May, to Baltimore. After a few training and information days, she and the other 29 members of her team will set off from the Inner Harbor of the Charm City on Monday.
The route – one of four that will be biked across the country by the 30-member 4K for Cancer teams – will start in Maryland and pass through Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and California before arriving at the Pacific Ocean, where riders will dip their front tire in the ocean upon arrival.
Gagne and her fellow riders will see the Lost Sea in Tennessee, cycle through Great Plains, summit the 12,183-foot Trail Ridge Road in Colorado, visit the Great Salt Lake and ride through the Painted Hills of Oregon, something the Brampton, Ontario, native is looking forward to doing.
There will also be service events in many of the cities the bikers will visit, while Gagne is looking forward to honoring those she and her friends know who have fought cancer. The cancer battle has hit home for Gagne, as her mother lost her father when she was 9 years old from lung cancer, and Gagne’s other grandfather passed away eight years ago of liver cancer.
In addition, her 3-year-old cousin, Otis, was diagnosed with brain cancer a few months ago and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
“I know every morning when we wake up, we get stories from different teenagers who are affected by cancer,” she said. “We can also dedicate days to someone we’re riding for, so what I’ve been trying to do, everyone who has been great with helping with the donations, I’ve been trying to go through and figure out who they would want me to ride for. I’ve been trying to get enough people to fill up every day so I can have someone to ride for, and then what we do is take Sharpies and we write their names on our arms and legs to show who we’re riding for.”
Gagne first heard about the ride from a friend, and the process to be chosen as one of the 120 riders who will take part in the four routes isn’t easy. There’s an application followed by a 30-minute phone interview for those who advance past the first step. Plus, those who are chosen must guarantee to be able to raise at least $4,500 for the ride.
Of course, there’s also the grueling nature of the ride, which will tax even a recent Division I athlete such as Gagne. Her practice rides have topped out around 55 miles, though the distances the riders will travel vary each day, topping out at a 136-mile route through Tennessee from Knoxville to Carthage in June.
The forward scored 26 goals over the past four seasons for the Buckeyes and has always been an athlete, and she hopes the 4K for Cancer will be another event that helps her stand out from the pack as part of a mantra she has developed of “putting the awe back in awesome.”
“Even starting when I was little, I’ve played hockey since I was 3 years old, and that always was what made me different,” she said. “I know being an athlete at that level who does any sport, you’re always different in that way. Now that hockey is over, it’s like that whole chapter is done so this is like my next adventure, the next thing that is going to help me do something that not everyone can do because that’s how my whole life has been.”
It will be an extraordinary ride for an extraordinary cause. Fans can donate here to help push Gagne to her goal: http://4kforcancer.org/profiles/danielle-gagne/