Tyler Knabb bicycle

With four months before thousands of Penn State students begin their 46-hour journey in the Bryce Jordan Center for THON 2014, one student will embark on his own trip today to raise awareness about pediatric cancer.

Penn State World Campus student Tyler Knabb said he was inspired by his mother and his friend, who both passed away from cancer, and is now traveling 920 miles in eight days around Pennsylvania.

His ride will raise money for the Penn State Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon benefiting the Four Diamonds Fund.

Knabb’s journey will take him in a heart-shaped route around Pennsylvania to 11 different Penn State campuses, including the Hershey Medical Center, he said.

“Ten years ago, my mom passed away from a rare form of cancer and my friend Michael recently passed away from leukemia,” Knabb said. “I wanted to do something meaningful to me but also something other people could get behind as well.”

Michael’s father, Tom Chobot, said he is deeply touched and pleased to hear his son, who died in August, had such an inspiration on Knabb.

“As a parent, your biggest fear is that he’ll be forgotten, but when people say Michael touched their lives, it makes everything better,” Chobot said.

Chobot said Knabb is a very selfless person who is appreciative of life and what cancer can do, not just to the individual but the person’s family and what they experience first hand.

“I hope [Knabb] can inspire a lot of people with his ride and he gets a lot of support,” Chobot said. “He is a big motivation to others and just doesn’t want to have to see what [Michael] went through.”

The THON organization The Hope Express will sponsor Knabb’s 920-mile bike ride “Cycling For The Kids,” Knabb said.

Knabb said he is an avid cross-country athlete and cyclist and after cancer impacted his family and friends, he wanted to use his knowledge and abilities to raise money and awareness for cancer.

Hope Express co-founder Hank Angus said each applicant who wants to partake in the organization’s annual 135-mile run in February from the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to Penn State leading up to THON is required to do fundraising for THON.

“Most applicants do their fundraising online, but Tyler decided to do this on his own,” Angus said. “I think his bike ride will go a long way and bring awareness about what THON really does in a lot of ways.”

During the first few days of his trip, Knabb said he will travel to the Penn State York campus and through Penn State Harrisburg, visit the Hershey Medical Center and finish at Penn State Schuylkill.

Knabb will also visit Penn State Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, University Park, Dubois, New Kensington, Greater Allegheny, Fayette and Mont Alto, he said.

Knabb said he will ride for four days, have a “rest day” in State College where he will run the THON 5K with Hope Express and proceed to ride four more days.

“Anyone who knows THON knows it’s not a single effort and that’s why I hope people look at this [ride] and even give just one dollar or are motivated to work harder,” Knabb said. “That’s when I think [the ride’s] successful.”

In preparation for the ride, Knabb said he’s been steadily increasing his riding and cycling over the past two months — anywhere from one to four hours of “strictly riding and hill climbing.”

For the past few days, Knabb said he wanted to ride and get in about 55 miles to build up lactic acid prior to having “pounding for eight days straight” on his legs.

“Many people will probably think I’m nuts, but once you get going, you don’t stop,” Knabb said. “You put one foot in front of the other and eventually you get to where you want to go. That’s my thought as far as the symbolism between this ride and cancer –– just keep moving forward.”

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Gabriella Santoliquito can be reached at gqs5171@psu.edu or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @gmsanto3.