For Schuyler Dale, no task is too large to keep her friend’s spirit alive — even if it means biking from Austin to Alaska, with a stop in Denton along the way.
Dale, now 21, was a student at Guyer High School when she met Makenna Loerwald while playing volleyball. The girls clicked and became friends, but this year, Loerwald lost her battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare adolescent cancer typically found in the bone. Loerwald died in February at age 22.
Now, to continue a vow Dale made to her friend, she’ll be biking through the Rockies in the Texas 4000 for Cancer, a ride of more than 4,000 miles from Austin to Anchorage over the course of 70 days, to raise money for cancer research and awareness.
“I told Kenna I would do whatever I could to continue helping fight the fight,” Dale, a University of Texas student, said in a phone interview. “I want to keep my word.”
Every year, Texas 4000 selects UT students for an 18-month program. Dale, an anthropology major, said she has been signed up for three semesters volunteering at events and raising the $4,500 required from each student to participate. To raise funds, she even put on a fashion show, she said.
Dale left Austin on Saturday and will stop in her hometown of Denton with her team on Wednesday. While here, she and her team will offer a free program at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the commons area of Stark and Guinn Halls at Texas Woman’s University, at Bell Avenue and University Drive.
“We are trying to get a good showing of supporters for Makenna, and I will be available for anyone to ask questions about the project,” Dale said.
The group will spend the night at TWU before heading out to Pauls Valley, Okla.
Since receiving her first-ever road bike this past November, Dale has been training and going out on 100-mile rides. It’s been grueling work, but Dale said she’s kept the spirit of Loerwald with her constantly.
This isn’t the only commitment she has made to her friend. She has also participated in Relay for Life events, among others. In 2010, she helped organize the Walk for Kenna at South Lakes Park, which she said raised more than $5,000 to help Loerwald’s family with medical bills.
“She was one of my closest friends,” Dale said.
Dale said 79 cyclists, riding three different routes, will be traveling to Alaska. Her group, traveling through the Rockies, consists of 28 cyclists. They plan to ride an average of 70 miles a day, and on days they hit the “century mark,” they will take off for a day of rest to get ready to hit the road again. They plan to arrive in Alaska on Aug. 8.
“While it’s mentally and physically exhausting, once I start thinking of the reason I am riding, it’s all worth it in the end,” Dale said. “I just have to constantly remember what we are riding for.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.