Riding for a cause

by Callie Sterling

Three Arkansas women along with one woman from Texas are raising awareness for Neurofibromatosis (NF) nationally by riding in the 34th annual Race Across America.

Hannah Turnbough of Conway, Lesley Oslica of Conway, Angela Earle of  Dallas and Julie Hathcock of Malvern will ride 3,000 miles as a team across 12 states. The race will begin on Saturday, June 20, for participants that are on a team.

“We will be competing in Race Across America, which is a world renowned race,” Oslica said. “Less than 15 percent of the participants are women. It is a 3,000 mile race and we will cross 12 states.”

The team is on a strict schedule in hopes of finishing the race in a little over a week.

“We are hoping to complete the race in eight days,” Oslica said.

According to nlm.nih.gov, Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder of the nervous system. NF can have an influence on how nerve cells form and develop. Patients diagnosed with NF can be found with tumors on the nerves. Typically, the tumors are benign but some can be cancerous.

Each of the women is passionate about NF, hoping to raise awareness for friends and family who have been diagnosed.

“The NF Endurance Team is so important to me because neurofibromatosis is so common, yet so unheard of,” Turnbough said. “It feels very empowering to be on one of the few, select, all women teams.”

Raising money for NF research is another component as to why the team wants to participate in the race.

“We want to help raise money towards research that will find a cure for NF,” Hathcock said. “I am also racing for my friend Dana who was diagnosed with NF.”

Earle has an extremely personal connection with the disease. Her daughter was diagnosed with NF at a young age.

“My daughter, Kylie, was diagnosed with NF1 when she was 2 months old,” Earle said. “Since her diagnosis, I’ve been involved with the Children’s Tumor Foundation and participating in endurance events.”

Earle feels that participating in the race is her way of being positive and giving back, rather than giving up hope.

“She needs an effective treatment,” Earle said. “This is the only way I know how I can help since I feel so helpless as a parent of a child who has a disorder without a cure. It would be easy to climb under a rock, but that’s not the path I’ve chosen. I would rather think about all of the heroes that I’ve met over the years and do something positive for them.”

The four teammates are currently training for their 3,000 mile journey across 12 states. Some started training earlier than others but all four are dedicated and ready to ride.

“Participating in such a grueling event, like Race Across America, illustrates our team’s desire to do anything that we can to advance the mission to end NF,” Oslica said. “If we can get financial support for NF research because of our efforts, then our goal has been achieved.”

In addition to raising awareness for NF, they are looking forward to the scenery and the experience overall.

“I am excited about getting to see the U.S. from my bike and having my family out there supporting me along the way,” Earle said. “This wouldn’t be possible for me without them.”

For more information or follow the team’s journey, visit https://www.facebook.com/RAAM4AReason. To make a contribution, visit RAAM4NF.org.