Pedaling for a Cause

USD alumnus Payton Stanaway lifts his bicycle over his head in triumph


Before he put pedal to the metal as a mechanical engineer, Payton Stanaway ’19 (BS/BA) wanted to pedal for a cause. So in the summer of 2019, he set out on a coast-to-coast bicycle trip to support young adults affected by cancer. Seventy days, more than 4,300 miles and approximately 1.2 million pedal strokes later, he’d helped raise nearly $160,000.

Since he was graduating in December of 2019 from the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering and about to enter the workforce, he was eager to take the challenge. “I knew this would be the last chance I would ever have to do something like this,” he says. “I really wanted to do something that would change lives.”

The thousands of dollars raised from sponsors will support the Baltimore-based Ulman Foundation that provides scholarships, housing and other support for young adults affected by cancer and their families.

When he left Baltimore to start the trip, Stanaway wasn’t sure what he was getting into. But he says it turned out be the “the adventure of a lifetime.”

Along the way, there were obstacles, including heavy rain in Ohio, bugs in Wisconsin and even a grizzly cub in Glacier National Park. There were many highlights as well, such as riding through the beautiful Appalachian Mountains and down Lakeshore Drive in Chicago.

At the end of the journey, “seeing the Pacific Ocean and knowing that I really did ride coast to coast was absolutely amazing,” he recalls.

Stanaway was always “calm and collected” and making sure “everyone was okay,” recalls fellow cyclist Victoria Bricker.

The team started with 30 members but ended with 28, after one participant crashed and had to drop out and another suffered a collapsed lung.

“Supporting each other through the tough rides, the steep climbs and fixing each other’s bicycles, we really learned to work together as a team,” says Stanaway. 

What also made the trek easier were the service days the group would make every 10 days or so by stopping at a hospital or center to visit cancer patients. “They were so inspirational to us,” Stanaway says. “They really taught me how to push through any adversity I might face.”

He emerged from the journey with a true sense of connection with many of those patients. “Each day, we dedicated that day’s ride to someone impacted by cancer,” he recalls. “One day I dedicated my ride to a little girl named Addi who is battling the disease. Biking 100 miles a day is easy compared to what she faces every day, yet she has such a positive attitude.”

“So often today all we hear about is the bad in this world, and yet there are so many good people out there,” Stanaway says. “People were so generous to us and were genuinely interested in what we were doing. It made me feel good about this country and human nature in general.” — Liz Harman

One Response
  1. Dorothy Dean Dorville Reply

    So proud of this young man. Having cancer myself it means so much that people do care. I have known his mother for many many years and a great family as he has proved. Hat or better helmets off to you. Thank you, thank you!!!

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