Zach Boyer looked forward to seeing the country when he set out on a charitable bike ride from Baltimore to Portland to support young adults affected by cancer.
It was hard to leave his mother before she underwent surgery for cervical cancer of her own. But he thought the trip was worth it.
Most people along the way were supportive.
But not whoever stole his bike and that of another rider this week in Parkland as they were driving back east.
“It’s really depressing to know that people would stoop that low,” the 18-year-old from Massachusetts said from the road this week.
Boyer and the rest of his group decided to see Seattle before heading home. They spent Monday night with an acquaintance at 119th Street South and Eighth Avenue Court South.
When they woke up Tuesday, someone had broken the bike racks off both the group’s supply vans, which display the Ulman Cancer Fund logo. The thief took the two bikes attached to the racks, and also broke a window, which is covered with a trash bag and duct tape as they drive cross-country.
The loss was about $3,000.
“It’s almost like losing a friend,” Boyer said. “You’re with that bike for 70 days. You put your blood, sweat and tears into it, and then it’s just taken from you.”
He was given the bike as one of 27 riders who left Baltimore in May and pedaled 4,300 miles to arrive in Portland on Aug. 4 for the annual 4K for Cancer event.
Riders seek donations to participate. The contributions totaled about $500,000 this year and go to the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. The organization supports youths affected by cancer. It provides help through college scholarships and other means.
Boyer volunteered to help drive the group’s vans back across the country with a few others. Among them was 24-year-old Chey Hillsgrove of Maryland, rider of the other bike that was stolen.
The cross-country journey and theft isn’t all Boyer and Hillsgrove share - they’ve both studied criminal justice.
Boyer’s mother, Kerstin Mingels, was baffled by the crime.
“All they want to bring back is this bike, and the bike is stolen,” she said.
Cancer runs in Boyer’s family. His great aunt is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and Mingels was diagnosed with cervical cancer about a month after Boyer signed up for the ride.
“Zachary has always been an ambitious sort of kid,” Mingels said. “Once he saw this online, he had to do it.”
Despite her health problems, she wanted her son to to go.
“Like I told him, I would have it no other way,” she said. “I think it just gave him more drive.”
After surgery Mingels’ cancer is gone, and she doesn’t need chemotherapy or radiation, she said.
Even with the theft, Boyer said the ride was a positive experience.
“Despite the shortcomings with our bikes,” he said, “the majority of people are really generous and just really want to help out.”