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News: Roane State hosts cyclists traveling cross-country to support the Ulman Cancer Fund

News: Roane State hosts cyclists traveling cross-country to support the Ulman Cancer Fund

A group of bicyclists riding across the country pose for a picture before taking a break in the gymnasium on the Roane County campus of Roane State.

June 18, 2018

By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer

Roane State faculty and staff rolled out the red carpet for 23 young fundraising bicyclists as they rolled up to the community college’s gym on the Roane County campus as part of a cross-country journey.

They’re making the trip from Baltimore to San Francisco to benefit the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, riding as far as 110 miles a day as part of the annual 4K for Cancer. A Rockwood couple with ties to both the college and the Ulman Cancer Fund made arrangements for the cyclists to camp out in the Roane State gym June 14 and use college facilities. College officials gladly obliged.

Rebecca and Don Layne also treated the group of a gourmet dinner catered by Caramella Bistro of Kingston and a breakfast before they began the trip up, across and down the Cumberland Plateau to Cookeville.

“I admire what these young people are doing,” Rebecca Layne said.

Their granddaughter, Sydney Trentham, made the trek two years ago to honor and support her mother, breast cancer survivor Barbara Trentham. “Our granddaughter said the trip was a life-changing experience for her,” Rebecca Layne said.

After the Laynes learned that the Ulman Foundation riders planned to spend the night in the Rockwood area, they turned to the college and women’s basketball coach Monica Boles. “She started the ball rolling,” Rebecca Layne said.

“Roane State is dear to us because our son Sam played basketball and graduated from there, and his daughter Rachel played basketball there also and graduated this May,” Rebecca Layne wrote in an email.

The Ulman Cancer Fund was founded in 1997 by Doug Ulman and his family after he was diagnosed with cancer a year earlier.

Each year, three groups of bicyclists and three teams of joggers make the trip across the country, starting and ending in major cities on each coast.

The bicyclists, traveling in small groups behind a lead van and in front of a sweep vehicle, range in age from 18 to 25. They had to raise $4,500 each to participate. To date, the contingent that camped out in the gym has raised nearly $120,000 for scholarships and healthcare resources for young cancer victims.

Three bicyclists take it easy in the gym at Roane State’s Roane County campus after a ride from Knoxville as part of their 70-day, cross-country trip.

“I’m not going to soon forget this,” said participant Sam Heater, 21. He’s already raised $7,800 for the Ulman Cancer Fund. The group was on Day 12 of their journey when they camped out in the gym.

The first three days “were very difficult for us,” Heater said, “but we’re improving drastically.”

Arrangements for spending the nights on the road are made in advance, and most often the group stays in churches.

Heater, an experienced street cyclist, said Day 62 might well be the most challenging. That’s when the group pedals 110 miles – with an 8,000 foot gain in elevation – in the mountains of northern California.​

To learn more about the 4K for Cancer, visit

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