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Cyclists journey from Baltimore to Key West to support young adults with cancer

Dedicated cyclists embarked on a week-long ride in support of young adults battling cancer as part of the Key for Keys program. The journey entails 40 to 60 miles of biking each day, and cyclists will travel from Baltimore, MD to Key Largo, Florida.

The program, which takes place from April 14 to April 21, was organized by the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF), a group dedicated to, “chang[ing] lives by creating a community of support for young adults, and their loved ones, impacted by cancer,” according to their mission statement.

Key for Keys is an opportunity for volunteers aged 18 and older to come together and share their stories while raising money in support and increasing awareness of young adults affected by cancer. The event is primarily attended by friends and family of those affected; however, it is open to all. Interested individuals can choose to participate in the ride itself or sponsor a rider. It is up to each rider to determine how they wish to promote donations. For example, in the past cyclists have asked for one dollar per mile covered or engaged in other activities, such as hair dying, to encourage support.

The opportunity was designed to be more accommodating to those who wished to support the foundation but were unable to make a commitment to the UCF’s most popular volunteer project, the 4K for Cancer.

The 4K for Cancer is a cross-country bike ride specifically for college students where participants ride over 4,000 miles. The event takes place over the summer and encourages a greater support among young adults for those of similar age diagnosed with cancer. However, due to the time commitment and physical demand, the UCF introduced the Key for Keys ride as a way to encourage participation from those unable to meet the constraints of the 4K.

Both events are highly attended and produce a large part of the donations the Fund receives.

Sasha Nader, representative for the UCF, explained that the Key for Keys ride yields roughly 150 thousand dollars and the 4K for Cancer generates anywhere between 800 thousand to one million dollars. Nader also commented that multiple students from UMBC participated in the 4K for Cancer.

Additionally, involvement is encouraged through sports and traditional donation methods. Nader stated, “The idea is, we are using sports as a platform to raise money for young adults with cancer.” The UCF also holds an event in July called ‘Screw cancer, Brew hope.’ However, she said the cyclist rides are the most well attended events.

The money raised by these events is utilized by the UCF to provide patient navigators in area hospitals to young adults diagnosed with cancer. A patient navigator is similar to a social worker and enables the affected individual to find care more efficiently. The Fund is associated with multiple hospitals such as the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the University of Maryland medical center, MedStar, the Union Memorial, Children’s national in D.C. and the Walter Read Military Medical Center.

Nader explained one of the primary concerns of young adults diagnosed with cancer is the detrimental effects of treatment medications on a young woman’s fertility. The UCF worked to pass a bill through the Maryland General Assembly which would require Maryland insurers to cover efforts of fertility preservation by young woman diagnosed with cancer. The bill is scheduled to be signed within the next month.

Currently, the Ulman Cancer Fund is building a UCF house in east Baltimore near Johns Hopkins Hospital. According to Nader, the house will serve as a, “home away from home for young adults seeking cancer treatment.” With hopes of opening the house in the fall, the UCF is looking for college student volunteers to help with meal preparation and accommodations.