Fox Chapel teen biking across country to raise money for Hillman Cancer Center |
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Madigan Wolfanger, a Shady Side Academy student, is riding her bike across the country to raise money for Hillman Cancer Center.

Imagine biking 85 miles a day for six weeks across multiple states, because that’s exactly the quest Shadyside Academy student Madigan Wolfanger embarked on June 23.

And the Fox Chapel resident is pedaling for a purpose, biking 3,000 miles to raise at least $10,000 for the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Foundation, an initiative undertaken in honor of her grandmother, Lois Wolfanger, who successfully battled cancer and the doctors who helped her.

Madigan has raised more than $2,000 so far, and hopes that number will climb as she tacks on miles.

“What excites me most is the meaning behind the trip. 100 percent of the profit goes to UPMC Hillman Cancer Center,” she said. “It’s a personal challenge for me, and such a great contribution towards my family.”

Madigan and her mother packed her bike June 20 and flew to South Carolina, where the trip began. She and the crew plan to bike until reaching the final destination — the Santa Monica Pier in California, where her family will be waiting to greet her Aug. 7.

A passion to do good is why Madigan, 16, decided to pedal with 13 others as part of the American Challenge Biking Trip run by Overland, a six-week summer camp with a tour traveling from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific. Her goal to raise the money is on her own terms, and is unrelated to the Challenge.

The trip, despite its many perks, will have its challenges, as weather changes and hot temperatures can be unexpected.

“What’s going to be our main struggle is the heat,” she said. “It gets really hot later in the day.”

The trip is self-supported, she said, – no vans carrying luggage, sleeping gear and necessities. Instead, all gear is strapped on the back of the bike. Madigan also must give up her all electronic devices including her cell phone, so her family will depend on sparse calls along the way to keep up to date on the journey.

The group cooks their own meals and finds shelter at campgrounds and in churches at night.

Although she has not done a trip to this length or caliber, she expects to finish in just over a month.

Madigan first jumped on the saddle when she was in seventh grade, venturing to a week-long summer camp centered on bicycling. The journeys have been getting longer ever since, including a 1,000-mile trip last year from Seattle to San Francisco with her father.

Cyndy Patton, spokesperson for UPMC, refers to the journey as the “Madigan Initiative,” something that the Hillman Cancer Center is lucky to benefit from.

“To have someone as young as Madigan do something this amazing, that really speaks volumes,” Patton said.

When she returns, she said she hopes to continue raising money to help cancer research.

Christine Manganas is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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