Dong Hoon Lee, a UW-Whitewater student, overlooks the Rocky Mountains during a 70-day trek this summer that started in Baltimore and ended in San Francisco with the organization 4K for Cancer.

By Dave Fidlin


As he resumes studying accounting this fall, Dong Hoon Lee’s life has seemingly returned to normal.

But the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater sophomore is quick to point out his life has forever been changed because of an event he participated in this summer.

Lee, a native of Korea, ventured across 12 states as a cyclist to support cancer research. Over a 70-day stretch of time – May 27 to Aug. 4 – Lee and about 90 other participants trekked from Baltimore, Md., to San Francisco.

The coast-to-coast journey was a labor of love for Lee, who linked up with the nonprofit organization 4K for Cancer and raised $4,500 toward research initiatives. The dollar amount correlated to the number of miles Lee and teammates traveled to cross the country.

Fifty-eight of the team’s 70 days were devoted to cycling. Along the way, there were stops and opportunities to partake in service opportunities. One such opportunity entailed cooking dinner for cancer patients.

“During the last week, as we were heading toward San Francisco, I was starting to feel tired,” Lee said. “I wound up meeting somebody who had a dad who would’ve loved to have gone on something like this. It was a good reminder to me to be thankful for what I have.”

Another poignant moment for Lee was an outreach opportunity in St. Louis. He had an opportunity to reach out to and touch the life of a person contending with cancer.

“I made a positive impact in somebody’s life that day, and it meant a lot to me,” Lee said. “That motivated me during the rest of the trip.”

Cancer is a condition that hits all too close to home for Lee, a native of South Korea. Six years ago, his mom was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Lee was in high school and studying in the United States at the time of his mom’s announcement. The difficult news was exacerbated by the fact he was so far from home and unable to console his mother.

After a series of surgeries, doctors made the determination a year ago Lee’s mom is free of cancer – a reality that is cause for Lee to be bountifully grateful.

Since returning from his cycling excursion, Lee said he readily dispenses advice to his classmates.

“Being in college is a great time of life,” he said. “We should all be able to do what we want to do before we have to start work and take on greater responsibilities.”

While Lee is an avid cyclist and athlete, he admits the magnitude of this summer’s cycling excursion did cast some doubts. But much like the trial of witnessing his mom contend with a serious condition, Lee said he is a stronger person through this challenging opportunity.

“I tell people to do something out of their comfort zone,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be something extraordinary or big. It’s all about getting out of the comfort zone.”

While accounting and other areas of study pose challenges to Lee at times, he readily admits he is able to conquer challenges in the aftermath of the cycling trip.

“I’m just thankful for each day I get,” Lee said. “I might have tough days, but after what I went through, I want to keep my head up.”





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