Coast to coast

Two men cycle across America to raise money for cancer

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From left, John Gagne, 21, of New Hampshire and Aaron Smith, 22, of Pennsylvania pose on Main Street. The Sigma Chi fraternity brothers are cycling coast to coast this summer to raise money for cancer.

— Two bagels.

Two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Two bikes.

One budding friendship.

One cause.

John Gagne and Aaron Smith, brothers in Sigma Chi fraternity, met one week ago.

Now they are cycling across America from San Jose, Calif., to Daytona Beach, Fla., to raise money for cancer.

John Gagne 21, an Aviation Business Administration major of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University of Daytona Beach, Florida started the mission.

Aaron Smith, 22, who graduated from Wake Forest this past year with a psychology major, made it official.

How did they meet?

Through Sigma Chi's mass e-mail.

"I sent e-mails to every Sigma Chi president in the nation asking if they would want to cycle America for cancer," Gagne said. "There was a lot of interest, but Aaron was most enthusiastic about the journey."

Sigma Chi Leadership Organization promotes the fraternity brothers to give back to the community. The fraternities' philanthropy is the Huntsman Cancer Research Center.

The two men have already raised $18,000, which is $7,000 away from their goal of $25,000.

"Other nonprofit organizations put donated money into other funds to fund their trip," Smith said. "Every single penny we raise goes to cancer research. That is so important."

Smith's grandfather recently died of brain cancer.

His grandfather is the driving force behind him every mile.

"I want to help those suffering from cancer in the future," Smith said.

With 2,047 miles left to cycle until their final destination, Gagne is thankful for the people's generosity.

"The relationships we have created along the way are priceless," Gagne said. "People will call us from a town we just visited while we are on the road and ask us how they can help."

Both are from the East coast so the small town hospitality and open spaces are something new.

But community involvement is not new for Gagne, who was a participant in Relay for Life in his hometown of Cornish, N.H.

When informed about Craig's first annual Relay for Life on Friday, Gagne had no doubt the event would bring success.

"This town seems really involved and will be able to make a difference," Gagne said. "The relay is a powerful event."

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