As soon as I heard about the Illini 4000 and the Portraits Project, I knew immediately that I had found my way to contribute to the fight against cancer. I rode with the 2013 Bike America Team and served as the Portraits Project coordinator during that unforgettable summer. As the director of the Portraits Project, I also serve on the Illini 4000 board of directors and ensure that our project continues to grow. The powerful stories that I have heard throughout my time with this organization will stay with me forever, and I am honored to be entrusted with sharing these stories with others.
I rode with the Illini 4000 as part of the 2014 Trek Bike America team and served as the Portraits Projects coordinator during the ride. I was deeply touched by all the stories that the team heard along the ride, and I am humbled by the kindness, openness, compassion, wisdom, honesty, hope, love, and realism captured in these portraits. I want to do my part to help these amazing stories be shared with the world and help strengthen the support community of those impacted by cancer. It is “When we're connected to others, we become better people” and although “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, [we can control] how we play the hand”; “The key question to keep asking is, Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have. ” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture.
I rode with the Illini 4000 as part of the 2015 Trek Bike America team. When I first heard about the Portraits Project, I immediately felt in love with it. I joined the Portraits board in 2014 and got to learn more about the Portraits Project. As I biked across the country this past summer, seeing firsthand how Portraits Project works moved me even more. The Portraits Project is not just about stories--it is about sharing the love and support to the people whose lives have been affected by cancer. This year is Illini 4000's ten year anniversary and I'm hoping to do something special for the Portraits Project, the root of where the biking started.
As an international student, I did not know much about the Portraits Project or the Illini 4000 when I was back in China. The first bit of news about the organization reached my ears when I was desperately trying to fix an old bike in order to save myself from trekking across our enormous campus on a daily basis. I was instantly fascinated by the idea of biking across America, and learning the moving stories of those who survived cancer at the same time. As a Portraits Project board member, I am eager to use all the skills I have and join the effort in propelling the organization towards a brighter future.
I rode my bike with the Illini 4000 as part of the 2015 Trek Bike America Team and have worked with the Portraits Project since the beginning of 2015. I conducted my first portrait during a Relay For Life event and was deeply impressed by the patient's story. I was told how much he appreciated that there was someone who had the same cancer and gave him advice before, and he could now help others with our project. This is why I do the Portraits Project. I would love to see and hear more and more amazing stories through this amazing Portraits journey.
I made the decision to be a part of Illini 4000 the moment I heard of it: as a new transfer student lost and confused on quad day, Illini 4000 was the diamond in the chaos. Less than a year later I was riding with the amazing 2015 team. The simultaneous likeness and diversity among each portrait collected, along with the profound truth, courage, humanity, and empathy represented in each one, kept me going through the ride. The concurrent weight of the individuals' struggles and their wonderful lust for life inspired and changed me. Knowing the portraits would both haunt and inspire me for the rest of my life, I became dead set on staying involved with Illini 4000 for the remainder of my college career so as to help spread its mission of connecting and empowering those touched by cancer.
I applied for the Illini 4000 without my parents' approval, and after riding across the country and meeting such amazing people with the 2015 team, it was the best choice that I have ever made. The Portraits Project in my opinion is what holds the team together through the hard days, and let us have a new found respect for the days we considered easy. Being a design major, I hope to bring a new approach to media to the project, and I deeply hope that others can benefit from this amazing cause.