Illini 4000 for Cancer

Illini 4000

The 2012 Illini 4000 Bike America Team

The 2012 Illini 4000 Bike America Team
Abbreviation I4K
Motto Uniting Students, Families, and Communities in the Fight Against Cancer
Formation 2006
Type 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization

The Illini 4000 is a non-profit organization dedicated to documenting the American cancer experience through The Portraits Project, raising funds for cancer research and patient support services, as well as spreading awareness for the fight against cancer through annual cross-country bike rides.


The Illini 4000 began as an idea between two University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students, Jonathan Schlesinger and Anish Thakkar. While both studying abroad in Spring 2006, Anish, who had been involved with early cancer detection research, thought that there was not enough available funding for cancer research. Schlesinger, who had been affected by cancer by a family member, also wanted to contribute to research funding.[1] Upon returning to campus in Fall 2006, the students combined their love for cycling with their determination in the fight against cancer and the Illini 4000 was born. The organization began as a registered student organization at the university but soon became a 501(c)(3) Non-profit organization.[2]

Bicycle trips

Every summer since the Illini 4000 was born, the team sends 20-25 students on a cross country bicycle trip. Each group of riders is named the Bike America Team and completes the journey beginning in late May and finishing in early August. Each day, the team rides between 40–110 miles with a support vehicle carrying their supplies. Before the ride, the members of the organization contact churches, community centers and schools for the possibility of using their facilities for a stayover for the night. Between those places and camp grounds, the team is able to find either a free or cheap place to stay. Also, once a week, the team is given a rest day in which they do not bike. These days give the team a chance to relax and explore the town of the stayover as well as visit hospitals and meet doctors and cancer survivors. In the past, the Bike America teams have been able to visit the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., the UIC Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.[2][3]

In summer 2007, the first Bike America Team was on the organizations's first cross-country trip. The trip started in New York City and ended in San Diego, California with 18 people riding. In 2008, the 20 rider bike team rode from New York City to Seattle, Washington. In 2009, the 23 riders rode from New York City to Portland, Oregon. For the 2010 ride, 28 riders biked from New York City and finished in San Francisco, California. From 2011 through 2014, the Bike America Team rode from New York City to San Francisco, with the 2012 Team riding through Washington D.C.[2][3]


To date, the Illini 4000 has looked primarily to their riders in regards to securing funds with which to both function as an organization and donate to various beneficiaries. Each rider of the Illini 4000 Bike America Team is required to fundraise $3500.00 through whatever means they have at their disposal and are within the ethical boundaries of the organization. And, through extreme ingenuity on the part of riders, coupled with the assistance of various Directors of Fundraising, our riders have continued to impress us. Whether it be corporate sponsorships, bake sales, carwashes, or social gatherings, the Illini 4000 has steadily grown in regards to average funds secured by each rider.

It goes without saying that the Illini 4000 would not be able to function without the support it receives from its various corporate sponsors. Trek, Champaign Cycle, That’s Rentertainment, Isostatic, OILUBE, NetTrust, AMS Mechanical Systems, Rushville State Bank, Grove Dental Associates, St. Martin Bank & Trust Co., and others have all been invaluable assets.


The Illini 4000 is committed to supporting cancer causes both nationally and locally within the central Illinois community and have chosen a variety of organizations including the American Cancer Society, Camp Kesem, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the Ishan Gala Foundation, The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, TLC Camp, Prairie Dragon Paddlers, and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researcher Dr. Brendan Harley, to help us achieve our mission.

In 2015, Illini 4000 was able to donate $100,000 thanks to the fundraising efforts of the 2015 Trek Bike America Team. Of the $100,000, $46,000 went towards funding patient support services and the remaining $54,000 went to funding cancer research. The Beneficiaries donated to in 2015 include American Cancer Society, Camp Kesem, B+ Foundation, and Prairie Dragon Paddlers for patient support services; and Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, and University of Illinois for cancer research.

Illini 4000 Fellowship

In recognition of the funding from Illini 4000 in 2015 and the funding over the past several years totaling $214,000, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has named one of their Fellowship awards after Illini 4000. The first Illini 4000 Fellow is Rand Miller, who is currently researching how cancer evades current therapies.

Portraits Project

The Portraits Project is a branch of the Illini 4000 as a national community that gives a voice to the American cancer experience and inspires people to join together in the fight against cancer. By sharing the stories of people across the United States, the Portraits Project serves as a platform to unite those who have been affected by cancer. The Project strives to provide educational resources, and foster strength in the face of hardship.

The Illini 4000 raises funds for cancer research and patient support services. Members of the Illini 4000 Bike America team ride their bikes across the country to spread awareness and to discover how cancer impacts the lives of ordinary Americans through the collection of Portraits.The Portraits Project is a component of the Illini 4000 and helps set the Bike America experience apart from other cancer charity rides. Riders interact with people from all over the country and document their stories with photographs and recorded interviews. The active website can be found at

What People Do (film)

During the summer 2007 ride, documentary filmmaker Zachary Herrmann followed the Bike America team across the United States as he created the documentary What People Do. The film, which is now freely available for viewing online, was made for the production company Films That Move which is entirely made of volunteer filmmakers from across the country.[4] The filming took place over the course of 4 months, in 7 states and gathered 35 hours of footage.

What People Do was the first film created by the production company. The goal of Films That Move is to make films that generate emotion while inspiring the audience to take action for a social cause.[4] They chose to follow the Illini 4000 based upon the politically divided state that the country was in at the time. While on the journey, the filmmakers documented the generosity the team found during their nightly stay-overs as well as stories from the riders and their hosts. The goal of these stories is to show that regardless of the condition of the country, there are still issues that can unite the population.[5]


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