Illini 4000: Biking for a cause
Tom Moone, ECE Illinois
- ECE grad Anish Thakkar and 20 fellow students will ride from NYC to San Diego to raise money for cancer research.
- The group, known as the Illini 4,000, has set a goal of raising $100,000 for cancer research.
- Ninety percent of the funds will go to the American Cancer Society. The remaining 10% will support Camp Kesem at the University of Illinois.
Recent ECE graduate Anish Thakkar has a bold plan for his summer. On May 26, Thakkar and about 20 fellow Illinois students began riding their bicycles from New York City to SanDiego.
Surely this ride would be an adventure that would fill many memories. But this ride is more than just the excitement of cycling the open road and camping along the roadside. Thakkar and his fellow riders are part of Illini 4000, an organization whose goal is to raise $100,000 for cancer research and cancer programs.
Illini 4000 was founded by Thakkar and his friend Jonathan Schlesinger. But it was Thakkar’s background in ECE research that was a major impetus for the ride. Since his sophomore year, Thakkar has been working with ECE Assistant Professor Michael Oelze on a project to use ultrasound to differentiate malignant and benign tumors in models of breast cancer.
“Anish examined several techniques for calculating the normalized backscatter power spectrum, which is vital to our cancer detection work” said Oelze. “He developed code to analyze the different techniques and conducted experiments to measure the backscatter from tissue mimicking phantoms.”
Thakkar’s work suggested a more promising approach for calculating the normalized backscatter power spectrum. “I am excited about his results,” said Oelze.
It was this experience in the lab that made Thakkar passionate about supporting cancer research. Thakkar, who is an avid cyclist, decided to combine his interest in cycling with his new-found interest in supporting cancer research. The idea behind Illini 4000 was born.
The funds raised by the ride will support two organizations. Ninety percent of the funds will go to the American Cancer Society.
The remaining 10% will support Camp Kesem at the University of Illinois. Camp Kesem is a national organization of camps designed to help children who have or had a parent with cancer participate in a summer camp run by college students and to interact with peers facing similar challenges. A group has been trying to start a camp at the U of I, said Thakkar, “but they haven’t been able to raise the necessary startup funds to start a camp. Our goal is to try to raise half the money they need to try to start a camp this summer that would serve the Central Illinois area.”
During the ride, Thakkar and his teammates are stopping by hospitals, visiting with children undergoing cancer treatments. They will also establish a pen pal program, connecting children with cancer with similar children from other parts of the country.
“The idea is to connect a kid in one area of the country with a kid in another who’s going through a similar experience somewhere else,” said Thakkar. “It gives them a way to express what they’re going through, because they are relating what they’re going through to someone who’s going through the same experience.”