UConn Medical, Dental Students Complete 18th X-Country Bike Tour

A record eight students carry on the UConn Health first-year summer tradition Coast to Coast for a Cause

Eight students in cycling gear

UConn Health's 2023 Coast to Coast for a Cause team includes, from left, Rogan Kaisen, Maura Radigan, Claire Surkis, Kayla Kendall, Liz Narwold, Keelin Hurtt, Audrey Grotheer, and Olivia Hudson. (Photo by Tina Encarnacion)

Five cyclists with their bikes on the shore
Claire Surkis, Maura Radigan, Audrey Grotheer, Olivia Hudson, and Rogan Kaisen start their summer-long cross-country bike tour on the Pacific shore in Ana Cortes, Washington, June 2023. (instagram.com/coast2coast2023)

The largest group of students to complete UConn Health’s traditional summer-long cross-country bicycle tour is home, completing the journey Tuesday on the Atlantic shore at Hammonasset Beach State Park.

Eight students took part in Coast to Coast for a Cause, the 18th edition of the ride that originated with a pair of medical students spending the summer pedaling home from the Pacific to raise money for leukemia research.

The beneficiaries have changed over the years; this year’s cause is the REACH (Reproductive Equity, Access & CHoice) Fund of Connecticut.

Eight cyclists hoisting their bikes with their feet in the water on the ocean shore
The 2023 Coast to Coast for a Cause cyclists celebrate reaching the Atlantic shore, at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Aug. 8, 2023. (Photo provided by Maura Radigan)

This year’s group split into teams. Dental student Keelin Hurtt and medical students Liz Narwold and Kayla Kendall made up one team, while the other team included Olivia Hudson (master’s, social work) and medical students Claire Surkis, Maura Radigan, Audrey Grotheer, and Rogan Kaisen.

Three cyclists in front of Logan Pass sign, mountains in background
Kayla Kendall, Liz Narwold, and Keelin Hurtt reach Logan Pass in Montana’s Glacier National Park. (instagram.com/coast2coast2023)

“I am so proud of my team members, all that we’ve overcome on this journey, and the cause we’re supporting,” Surkis says. “It’s bittersweet to be off the bike, but I am forever changed and forever grateful because of this experience.”

In less than two months, they pedaled roughly 3,000 miles, primarily along the bike route known as the Northern Tier, which briefly took them into Canada by the Great Lakes and back into the U.S. near Niagara Falls.

“I’m sad to say goodbye to this adventure,” Narwold says. “Mixed into the sadness is a feeling of love for my fellow bikers and pride for what we’ve accomplished. We are so much stronger than we ever could’ve imagined.”

Along the way, two of them got engaged. Kaisen says the group helped him find the ideal spot in Montana’s Glacier National Park to propose to Hudson.

Marriage proposal in the outdoors
When Team 2 got to Glacier National Park, Rogan Kaisen took a moment to propose to Olivia Hudson. (instagram.com/coast2coast2023)

“I pretended that I left my phone at the park and asked Olivia if she would come back with me,” Kaisen reports in the cyclists’ blog. “She was confused why I wanted her to come back, and was more interested in a butterfly on the road (which is very understandable). Eventually, despite a pounding heart, I was able to get down on one knee and propose to the love of my life. And she said yes!”

Grotheer, Radigan, Surkis, Hudson, and Kaisen arrived on the UConn Health campus in Farmington in the rain Monday afternoon, greeted by family, friends, and classmates, including Kendall, Narwold and Hurtt, who had returned to campus two days earlier.

Two cyclists on a ferry dock
The bike trail Kayla Kendall, Liz Narwold, and their Coast to Coast for a Cause teammates took back from Washington State includes a few days in Canada. (instagram.com/coast2coast2023)

“I saw the school and then heard the cheers,” Kendall recalls from her approach to campus. “OMG this was it, we had done it! I had to try to hold it together or else I wouldn’t be able to bike. I couldn’t believe it. I was so proud of us.”

As they reached the East Coast, they had raised $23,000 so far. There’s still time to support the students and their cause.

Learn more about the 2023 Coast to Coast for a Cause.

See additional details from the students’ journey on their blog.