The Columbus Fire Department will have a whole lot of holiday houseguests this Fourth of July.
A group of 23 bicyclists raising money for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults is scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Columbus, where they will set up camp at the city's south-side fire station along Eighth Street.
The group is traveling across the country as part of the Maryland-based 4K for Cancer program, which annually sends groups of runners or bicyclists ages 18-25 on the 4,000-mile trip to raise money for those impacted by cancer.
Team Portland's journey began June 4 in Maryland and will conclude Aug. 12 in Portland, Oregon.
Director Shantell Nolen described the trip thus far as “spectacular.”
“We got to ride through Chicago and we saw The Bean, which was interesting,” Nolen said, describing the reflective, bean-shaped sculpture in the city's Millennium Park. “I’m from California, so seeing all the landscape and beautiful sunsets here in the Midwest has been an experience for me that I will never forget.”
The cross-country trip includes scheduled rest days when the riders try to visit local cancer treatment centers to offer their support and donations.
“Our group made a stop in Columbus, Ohio, where we visited the James Cancer Hospital,” Nolen said. “We went on a tour of the facility and even got to participate in their bone marrow drive. On most of our rest days we are able to attend service events for children’s cancer centers. This can be from attending hematology drives to giving kids care packages.”
There are no planned visits or events for the local stop, which won't be the program's first.
Columbus firefighter Tim Bartholomew said three years ago a 4K for Cancer group was riding through Columbus and needed a host for the night.
“When we first heard about 4K for Cancer coming to town our team of firefighters hosted them at our south location,” Bartholomew said. “We had plenty of space for all of them to sleep, showers for them and places to keep their food for the night. It's definitely for a good cause and we are happy to help them."
First-year rider Manos Pagonis of Washington, D.C., said there are various ways the group collects donations.
“We can go to local stores and meet the locals and tell them about 4K and what we’re all about,” Pagonis said. “Stores, churches, hospitals are all places we can go to spread the word about what we do and our cause.”
Along with monetary donations, food is also accepted by the riders. The program has raised more than $5 million for cancer research and patients since 2002. Each rider has an account through www.gofundme.com.
Team Portland will leave Columbus on Wednesday after the overnight stay.
For more information on 4K for Cancer and the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, visit 4kforcancer.org.