A woman who died in Central Kentucky while on a cross-country bike ride for charity has inspired a Lexington man to take the same journey in her honor.
Jamie Lynn Roberts, 24, of Washington, D.C., was riding through Scott County last June when she stopped to fix a flat tire on U.S. 25 and was hit in the head by a passing pickup.
She was with a group riding from Baltimore to Portland, Ore., to raise money to support young adults with cancer through the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults' 4K for Cancer.
When Aaron Oppegard saw Roberts' story on Facebook last summer, he was struck by similarities he saw between them, he said.
She was close to the same age, had played college sports and enjoyed travel, and also also wanted to make a difference in the world, Oppegard said.
Although Oppegard, 24, has lived most of his life in Lexington, his family spent 31/2 years of his childhood in Maryland, where he attended the Barrie School, an independent Montessori and college prep school in Silver Spring.
It was the same school Roberts attended, though Oppegard said he did not know her because she was a few grades ahead.
The school's Facebook post about Roberts' accident was what first caught Oppegard's eye.
"It was weird to see the Barrie School posting something about Lexington," he said. It was like "two separate worlds kind of coming together."
The more Oppegard learned about what Roberts had undertaken, the more he wanted to be part of it.
Participants in the 4K for Cancer commit to raise at least $4,500 to help the nonprofit.
They bike 4,000 miles over 70 days. Lodging and food are provided by "host communities" along the route, so the money raised goes to support the organization's programs.
Along the way, there are opportunities for service, such as visiting cancer patients at hospitals.
"She was doing that to help people out. ... That really resonated with me," Oppegard said. "I decided I wanted to continue her ride."
Oppegard applied to participate in this summer's 4K for Cancer and, after an interview, was accepted.
He's part of a group of 30 riders who will be biking from Baltimore to Seattle beginning June 1. Three other bike rides and two cross-country runs also will be held this summer to raise money for the organization.
Oppegard is a college senior who said he is one class short of graduating from Coe College in Iowa. For now, he's back in Lexington, working and preparing for his summer adventure, which will require him to ride 50 to 100 miles a day. He took his first training ride a few weeks ago.
Oppegard has set a goal of raising $8,000, and he had raised just almost $6,000 by Monday. He said he's done it by word-of-mouth, setting up a display at the liquor store where he works and holding a party with a raffle and silent auction. He also has a profile on Ulman's website at 4kforcancer.org/profiles/aaron-oppegard where donations are accepted.
"Since I've been fundraising for this ... you see how many people do have a cancer story," he said.
He's hoping to dedicate each day of his ride to someone affected by cancer.
"I'll be writing people's names on my calves each day as a dedication and sharing pictures of it on Facebook. It's a tradition of this program," he said.
Brock Yetso, president and CEO of the Ulman Cancer Fund, said Oppegard was one of many people who have been inspired by Roberts.
Friends set up a Facebook page, Miles for Jamie, so riders and runners could post the miles they travel in her honor, and they still are posting there.
And although Roberts set out to raise $6,000 for Ulman, she has achieved that many times over. Friends, family and people who never knew her have contributed more than $311,000 to Ulman in her memory, which has funded scholarships for young adults with cancer, Yetso said.
"People continue to live their life in honor of her," he said. "Aaron's just one example of someone that was so touched by ... how she lived her life. He's obviously taking on an amazing summer."