Penn State student pedals heart-shaped route to fight cancer in memory of mom, friend
Some Penn State students help fight pediatric cancer every February by dancing in the university's IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, better known as THON.
But Penn State World Campus student Tyler Knabb of Reading doesn't feel much like dancing.
Instead, he's on the verge of completing an eight-day, 920-mile bicycle trek through Pennsylvania to raise money for a THON organization called The Hope Express.
The organization provides support for pediatric cancer patients at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center and their families.
Knabb's excursion brought him on Monday to the Penn State New Kensington campus, where faculty and THON student captains said they were inspired by his fundraising efforts.
After six days on the road, he's raised more than $4,400.
“My goal was $3,000, and I met it before I even left,” said Knabb, 24. “I think my story started gaining some momentum in the Penn State community, and donations just started pouring in.”
For Knabb, the fight against cancer is personal. His mother, Carol, died on his 14th birthday from a form of childhood cancer that's rarely found in adults.
He said the 10th anniversary of her death, combined with the loss of a childhood friend to leukemia in August, gave him the motivation to hop on the bike this year.
“I had been involved in THON before, but I thought it was time to step up and raise some real money on my own,” he said. “It hits you so hard when you lose people like that, but it's encouraging to see everything that Penn State does to combat that.”
Monday's stop at the Upper Burrell campus marked the eighth of 11 Penn State locations that Knabb plans to visit along the way.
He arrived there from Kittanning around 10 a.m. and spoke with faculty and THON captains for about an hour.
From there, he left for Uniontown, stopping first at the Greater Allegheny and Fayette campuses.
It accounted for about a 90-mile day and put him 250 miles from his final destination of Baltimore, where he began his journey on Oct. 22.
While Knabb is taking online courses in security risk analysis from Penn State, he's living temporarily in Baltimore as a full-time student at Johns Hopkins University. He's studying there to earn a bachelor's degree in cognitive neuroscience.
When he's not training for long-distance cycling excursions or working toward two college degrees, Knabb is serving in the Maryland National Guard.
“It sounds like a huge time commitment, but it's really not,” he said. “I spent more time planning the trip this month than I did in the service.”
The route that Knabb crafted from Baltimore was designed to allow as many campus visits as possible in an eight-day period.
It's coincidentally shaped like a crude, cartoon heart and runs through Pottsville, Wysox, Lockhaven, State College, Kittanning, Upper Burrell, Uniontown and Hagerstown, Md.
Knabb began training for the long-distance trip months ago by running or cycling three to four days each week.
He said he first started cycling seriously in high school to supplement his training for cross country and track and field, which he says is his first love.
That was evident in State College on Saturday when he spent his only scheduled day off to run a 5K race.
“It really got the soreness out,” he said. “The first 400 miles are pretty rough on the legs. It feels good to get off the bike once and then.”
Lauren Blum, Penn State New Kensington student life coordinator and faculty advisor to THON, said Knabb's resolve should inspire PSNK students to go the extra mile for the fundraising campaign.
“I think Tyler's excursion will definitely give our students here an extra boost,” she said. “How could you not be inspired by a guy who puts everything on the line like that?
“Especially when he doesn't have daily personal interaction with the Penn State community.”
The PSNK campus contributed $33,000 last year to the $12.37 million raised by the university as a whole. Despite having one of the smallest student populations among Penn State branch campuses, it ranked within the top five in fundraising for the fourth consecutive year, Blum said.
Contributing to those efforts was Michael Cavazza, a 20-year-old petroleum and natural gas engineering major and THON captain of family relations.
Cavazza said the THON team will follow Knabb's example in finding innovate ways to raise money.
“We are always looking for different ways to beat last year's total,” he said. “We need to think about doing something like this, which gets the community involved and appeals to a broader base of people. It's a great idea.”
Knabb's not yet satisfied with the thousands of dollars he raised on his bike.
He'll continue his fundraising in February when he runs a marathon from Hershey to State College — only to dance in another.
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- United Way Impact Fund Grants to award $445K to 26 Butler County nonprofits
- Keystone Markers give insights about towns but have fallen victim to time, theft or traffic accidents
- ‘Wax weed’ worries authorities
- Pyrotechnics display turns from benefit to burden in Tarentum
- Vandergrift man accused of sexual assault
- New Kensington dedicates fireworks festivities to longtime coordinator
- Lower Burrell couple charged with 6 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty
- Freeport VFW initiates its ‘monumental project’
- Union to work while ATI talks continue
- State store relocates to Highlands Mall
- Plum landslide to be fixed after year