Anish Thakkar, a 22-year-old Indian American, is leading 19 students and graduates of the University of Illinois on a coast to coast bicycle tour across the US to raise money for cancer research.
Anish is the founder of the Chicago-based non-profit organisation Illini 4000, which has organised the 4,000-mile (6,400 km) bicycle tour in the hope of raising $100,000 for cancer research.
The cyclists began their journey from this city on the eastern coast May 25 and are only 700 miles (1,280 km) short of the finishing line in San Diego on the western coast.
The funds raised by them will go towards paediatric cancer research and Camp Kesem, a University of Illinois project to run summer camps for children affected by cancer.
According to Illini 4000's website, "There is simply not enough funding for the research which must be done to detect cancers earlier and save more lives".
Besides raising funds, the organisation engages community members to share their experiences with cancer, creating an exhibit of portraits and stories of those affected by the disease across the US.
Anish's proud father, Harsh Thakkar, who came to the US from Surat in 1971 and runs an e-commerce business from New Jersey, told IANS: "Anish had conceived the trip last summer. He had ample practice when he went on a 1,000 mile (1,600 km) bike trip in Singapore last year and clocked another 500 miles (800 km) in Malaysia."
The cyclists are currently in Canyonland, Utah, heading towards Phoenix, Arizona. They are all well and in good shape despite the heat in the region. "We are feeling great. People have been opening their homes for us. Communities everywhere have been supportive," Anish told IANS over the telephone.
When Anish and his team arrive in San Diego August 4, an alumni group of the University of Illinois has planned a picnic-cum-reception, which will be attended by the parents of some of the cyclists.
Having just completed his graduation in electrical engineering, Anish is set to join a management consultancy firm in Chicago after the bicycle tour.