Med student pedals coast to coast, raising money for Shriners posted by Kate Santich on April, 27 2010 5:04 PM
The mountains of Nevada provided the first hurdle -- snow.
She ran into snow, hail, flooding rain, hellacious headwinds and a state she thought would never end — Texas. But ultimately Lauren Leffler, a fourth-year medical student from the University of South Florida in Tampa, managed to make it from San Francisco to Ormond Beach, her hometown, 4,020 miles in 31 days. She did it by bicycle, ingenuity and the kindness of strangers.
She rolled into her self-appointed finish line Monday evening with a police escort, hugged her family and a local Shriner, then took a dunk in the Atlantic. After 110 miles on the final stretch, it was a refreshing reward.
The solo cross-country trek was intended to raise $40,000 for Shriners Hospitals — and be one last great adventure before the 25-year-old starts her residency. She chose Shriners after rotating through her fair share of hospitals as a medical student. Shriners, she said, stood out.
Ahhh... nothing like a little swim after a 4,000-mile bike trip.
“The whole organization is completely donation-funded, and the good they do for children across North America is astounding — all at no cost to the patient,” she wrote before the trip. “With the recent economic turn-down, Shriners’ donations have also suffered — so much so that there was talk of closing down some hospitals. Now I know my little fundraiser isn’t going to be a deal-breaker, but every little bit helps.”
She’s trying to remind herself of that now that the trip is over and her fundraising efforts have added up to just over $6,000 — well short of her goal but, still, nothing to scoff at. People can continue to contribute, her mother points out, and because Lauren spent her own money on the trip’s expences, every dollar raised goes to the nonprofit hospital system.
Besides, Lauren is the type that aims high and just deals with whatever hardships come along. That was clear from her trip, which presented hurdles from the first week. On just Day 4, barely into the state of Nevada from her start in California, she hit snow and had to hitch a ride. The same happened the next day too. She got lost in Phoenix, had three flats and a foot of rain in Texas, and then her achilles’ tendon started to swell. Fortunately a day off and wearing sandals while riding seemed to help.
She also decided her scheduled daily average — 134 miles — might have been a bit much, even for a marathoner and triathlete, which she is.
But ultimately, she says, this is about Shriners, not about her. If you want to pitch in, check out her Shriners donation page here. Some day, Lauren, an aspiring pediatric orthopaedist, could end up working there.