Cyclist With a Cause
By Jenna Withrow
TAMPA, Fla. (April 23, 2010) - As soon as Lauren Leffler finished her final medical exam at the University of South Florida, she hopped on a plane to San Francisco.
It took her about five hours to fly from Florida to California; it has taken her almost a month to pedal back.
The fourth-year USF medical student is nearing the end of her 4,200 mile bicycle ride to raise money for Shriners Hospital for Children. Her goal is to raise $40,200 in one month – she has raised more than $5,000 so far.
“Shriners is an amazing organization. They do everything at no cost to the patient, they are totally donation-run,” Leffler said. “I don’t really care how much money I raise, I just want to raise money for Shriner’s. If I raise $42,000 I would be ecstatic, but I’ll be happy with whatever.”
The 25-year-old began her journey in San Francisco on March 26 and plans to finish her cross-country ride exactly one month later in her hometown of Ormond Beach, Fla. Leffler will cross ten states during her trip: California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. She bikes about nine hours each day, averaging more than 100 miles a day. The last day of her trip will be her longest distance — about 180 miles through Florida.
During her trip, Leffler has been staying with host families she found through local churches. She said she has met some amazing people and learned about different ways of life, which will help her in the medical field.
“I’ve definitely had a lot of time to think on this bike. I think I have grown as a person,” she said. “I’ve learned to communicate with people from all walks of life. I’ve learned to ask for help and listen to people.”
Even though she is enjoying herself, Leffler said the trip has been anything but easy. Some of the roads have been rocky, others were completely desolate. Mother Nature has not been too kind either. In the span of four weeks, Leffler has experienced a multitude of weather patterns: from freezing snow to wind gusts to heavy rain.
“I’ve developed a lot of endurance and perseverance. I’ve learned to stay calm when challenges are thrown my way,” she said. “Very few days have gone as planned, but somehow it’s all worked out.”
Leffler, who graduates from USF in May, said she plans to pursue pediatric orthopedics. She said is considering working internationally – possibly in Russia or South America – but she is open to anything.
“I’m not becoming a doctor for the money or the prestige – I just want to help people,” she said.
For more information about Lauren Leffler’s cross-country bike ride, click here.
The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.