1 Summer, 2 Bikes, 4,000 Miles

From left, Jonathan Kobles, Gregory Oudheusden, and Greg Kirby, who just completed their first year at the UConn School of Medicine, make up this year’s Coast to Coast for a Cure cycling team. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Photo)

From left, Jonathan Kobles, Gregory Oudheusden, and Greg Kirby, who just completed their first year at the UConn School of Medicine, make up this year’s Coast to Coast for a Cure cycling team. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Photo)

Two UConn medical students are spending their last free summer pedaling from California to Connecticut to raise money for leukemia research.

Greg Kirby and Gregory Oudheusden, who just completed their first year at the UConn School of Medicine, make up this year’s Coast to Coast for a Cure cycling team.

A third student, Jonathan Kobles 13 (CLAS), also a rising second-year medical student, is unable to join Kirby and Oudheusden from the start for health reasons, but hopes to join the ride in a few weeks.

They are the ninth group of UConn School of Medicine students to undertake the cross-country journey to benefit Lea’s Foundation for Leukemia Research, a Hartford nonprofit and philanthropic partner of UConn Health’s Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“I realized that [because of the demands of the medical school curriculum] this summer would be my last opportunity to do something extraordinary and spontaneous,” says Kirby, who grew up in Madison, Conn.

Adds Oudheusden, of Greenwich, Conn., “Riding coast to coast will help me make my last free summer meaningful by making a difference in my community.”

Kobles, who spearheaded the organization of this year’s trip, notes that this year’s route is more northerly than in previous years, in order to take in as many national parks as possible. Kobles grew up in Farmington, Conn., and graduated from UConn last year with a degree in molecular biology.

The itinerary includes the redwood forests of California, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, and Badlands National Park in South Dakota. As time and technology permit, the riders will post updates and photos on their blog, www.coasttocoastforacure2014.blogspot.com.

Kirby and Oudheusden are flying to San Francisco June 18, and will start the ride with the traditional dipping of their tires in the Pacific Ocean in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Although I have participated in many sports at a competitive level, I have previously only ridden for recreation,” Oudheusden says. “I have not attempted a ride this long before, so the endurance aspect will pose a fun challenge.”

Kirby says the longest he’s ridden is 50 miles, but he hopes to average 85 miles a day this summer.

Although only two are biking the full distance, all three students have had some pre-trip fundraising success as a group, including a student and faculty auction that brought in nearly $5,000.

“I have been blown away by the support that we have seen, not just from friends and family, but also from corporate sponsors, medical and dental school classmates, and our faculty members,” Kirby says. “The fact that so many people have donated time, money, and expertise to our ride is a great testament to the strong community at UConn Health.”

Those who wish to make a pledge or a donation to support their cause are encouraged to find the “Coast to Coast” box at www.leasfoundation.org/events and click “Donate.”

Follow UConn Health on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.