Cyclist looking toward a future with a cure

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St. Mary’s graduate Jacquelyn Clark rides for her late grandfather and in honor of a former teacher, and cancer survivor, Angela Eversull

By Juanice Gray

jgray@natchitochestimes.com

St. Mary’s graduate Jacquelyn “Jackie” Clark, class of 2014, is riding for her grandfather, taken by cancer before she was born, and for a teacher who greatly impacted her life, survivor Angela Eversull of Natchitoches. Where is she riding? To Anchorage, Ak. – from Austin, Texas! A 4,500 mile trek. Clark is one of the 75 members of the 2018 Texas 4,000 Cycling Team. Every year Texas 4000 competitively selects University of Texas students for an 18-month program to lead the fight against cancer. Texas 4000 challenges participants to raise $4,500 each, ride 2,000 training miles with his/her team, volunteer more than 50 hours in the community and play an active role in planning every aspect of the ride. “The ups and downs, the risks and triumphs of our journey simulate that of a cancer patient’s journey. We keep going, because we are riding for something bigger than ourselves – hope for a future with a cure,” Clark said. Clark will begin her journey June 1. She said the team is planning their stops at hospitals along the way where they will present programs in cancer prevention and awareness.

“I will do programs in both English and Spanish,” Clark said. “We will talk about water, hydration, breast exams and wellness.” The teams, which will split into three teams of approximately 25 members each and will travel three parallel routes, will make donations to the hospitals via their grant program. “We’re in that stage now,” Clark said. “We are doing a lot of travel planning and trying to choose deserving hospitals and programs. We will donate to community hospitals as well as specialty hospitals (like St. Judes or Shriners) but the focus will be on oncology. The funds will supplement their resources.” Clark is assigned to the Rockies route through Colorado and Montana. Her biggest concern – altitude. There’s a monumental difference between Austin and the Rockies. “I’m preparing for the climate change. We actually had snow here for New Years and we biked in the cold. I’m personally concerned about the elevation change, it has me nervous and excited,” Clark said. The cyclists will travel 80-120 miles per day relying on churches, organizations and individuals for lodging, meals and basics.

“We rely heavily on donations,” she said. “We do have a car we rotate driving. It has our camping gear, backpacks and food and water.” It is also available in the event of an emergency. “We will also spend some nights camping in various National Parks as these areas we pass through are less inhabited. I am so excited to see many different landscapes and meet people from all walks of life. I feel it will be such a humbling privilege to hear their stories and ride for their loved ones. These interactions motivate us to conquer the number of miles that lie ahead of us each day,” Clark said. By Aug. 10, when the ride concludes in Anchorage, the teams hope to have raised over $1 million for cancer care. “This journey is crazy and I know it, but on my first day of freshman year I saw cyclists panhandling. I thought they were crazy, but I learned about their purpose. Now, I ride because I imagine a future with a cure,” Clark said. “This is my opportunity to give back, to change the world a little bit and show the work ethic I learned at St. Mary’s is still guiding me. I know I wake up every day with a purpose.” Clark said she had almost zero experience cycling going into this endeavor. “I quickly learned, however, that biking is a lot like running when it comes to mental toughness. I am indebted to people like Coach (Chris) Maggio, though I hear they call him President Maggio now, who showed me how to work to achieve one’s personal best while maintaining the mindset to keep improving. Doing so requires a lot of discipline but more than anything a good attitude. That man never stops smiling, and I often get told this same thing! Another influential individual who was more formitive of my competitive work ethic than anyone else was Coach Johnny Cox. His confidence is just contagious, and through basketball, he taught me how to trust in my abilities, my preparation, and above all my teammates. Both of these men embody what it means to give your time tirelessly to others. I carry them and so many other Natchitoches folks with me.”

Clark is the daughter of Kenny and Martha Clark. The St. Mary’s graduate was captain of the basketball team, ran cross country and was on Tigerline. “I was also president of National Honor Society and a valedictorian. In the community, I served as a 2013 Christmas Belle, which is still one of my favorite high school memories,” she said.  She has invited the Natchitoches Times to share her journey and will provide updates and photos along the way, both before and during the Austin-Anchorage trek. To donate to their cause or to Clark’s personal journey, visit www.texas4000.org.

Texas 4000’s mission is to cultivate student leaders and engage communities in the fight against cancer. We share hope, knowledge and charity through leadership development, grantmaking, and our cornerstone event, a 4,000+ mile bike ride from Austin to Anchorage. We share HOPE by letting those touched by cancer know that we are riding for them and fighting for a world without cancer. We share KNOWLEDGE by bringing life-saving information about cancer prevention to communities and providing leadership development training to tomorrow’s leaders. We share CHARITYby contributing to cancer research and cancer support services while developing the next generation of volunteers and philanthropists.