UT student Herstein will ride for cancer cure
By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
Dallas’ own Jacob Herstein is taking Queen’s musical message of “I want to ride my bicycle” very personally.
Soon, he’ll be riding 4,500 miles between Austin and Anchorage as a member of the 2018 Texas 4000 team.
Since its founding in 2004, Texas 4000 has raised several millions of dollars, which has funded cancer research projects at MD Anderson Cancer Center, the UT Biomedical Engineering Department and more. Herstein is a biology and pre-med junior at UT-Austin. The issue he’s hoping to solve may likely be one he’s raising money for.
“We’ve lost so many people I care about to cancer and this ride is going to raise money to — I hope — help find a cure,” said Herstein, who had to apply to participate more than a year ago, and is looking forward to next summer’s 70-day adventure beginning June 2. “I wish there had been a cure for my grandfather and for Wende Weinberg and for so many others. Our family has been affected by this disease and many we love are still fighting. I want to push the pedals to help people survive.”
Herstein has raised more than $5,800 in tax-deductible pledges, hoping to surpass $7,500. The students coordinate the rides with room and meals provided by a mix of host families, nights camping in tents and community centers.
It’s rugged and rough, but previous hometown riders Elan Kogutt, in 2015 and Charlie Saginaw in 2010 wouldn’t trade the experience. Kogutt rode in memory of Margot Pulitzer, her children his lifetime friends, with the hope that no others would share the effects of loss and their pain.
For Saginaw, the connection is truly lasting. Last May, seven years after his ride, he married the former Rachel Brenner, who rode in 2011 following Saginaw’s advice to smile through the toughest trails.
“I feel a responsibility to fund raise but also to stand up for those I care about,” said Herstein, who nicknamed his bicycle “Gus,” after his grandfather Gustav Weiner, of blessed memory. “There are 80 riders and we’ll be doing 75 to 100 miles a day along three routes; the Rocky Mountains, the Ozarks and mine — the Sierra.”
Herstein’s route traverses the southwest through West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Nevada then north through the California, Oregon, and Washington coasts and into Bristish Columbia and the Yukon before reaching Alaska. They’ll stop at hospitals presenting money raised by the previous year’s riders. After they’ve seen the impact the ride provides, they will return to determine where their funds will be distributed by the 2019 riders.
Recently making his first ride on his bike, Herstein said it was uplifting and he truly got a sense of what it means to ride for those battling cancer. Riding for this cause, and participating in many forms of service through the years, is an example set by Herstein’s parents, Bertta and Scott, and his sister Jillian, who look forward to meeting him for the final stretch of the ride. He is a member of Congregation Beth Torah and a graduate of Levine and Yavneh academies. Mitzvah projects are something he’s known all of his life. It’s how he lives.
“That Jacob decided to dedicate his journey in memory of my father and so many who lost their lives to cancer makes it even more meaningful,” said Bertta, recalling her son on his trike which had a storage compartment filled with action figures.
“We’re incredibly proud of his accomplishments and we look forward to seeing where this opportunity takes him! The bottom line is, when Jacob sets his sights on something, there’s just no stopping him!”
The Texas 4000 brings Herstein’s leadership skills to a new level. He’s learning about running a nonprofit and its logistics from inception. His resume on paper, and in his heart, is filled with entries. He is president of the UT chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity and a member of UT’s Texas Cowboys service organization. In high school, he was a member of BBYO’s Brandeis Chapter, and a Judaic Teaching Intern at Yavneh teaching an Oral Law class related to Jewish holidays and customs.
“Jacob has always been self-motivated and he likes to take on leadership roles. He leads by example, and this selfless act of sacrificing his free time to raise funds for cancer research and awareness is a reflection of his personality,” said his father, Scott. “We’re encouraging him as he trains and ready to cheer him at the finish line.”
“Every activity I’ve ever been a part of I’ve learned something or met someone I wouldn’t have if not for being there,” said Herstein. “I’ve made friends that I’ll have for all of my life. It’s nice to have a new group of friends to enlarge my circle. My circle is definitely wider, and brighter, because of this experience and it’s not really even here yet.”
To support Herstein, or learn more about the Texas 4000, visit http://bit.ly/2hcC4ZF.