Couple biking across country to raise awareness and funds for ch - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Couple biking across country to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer research

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A Chicago couple determined to raise awareness and much-needed funding for childhood cancer research embarked on an awe-inspiring 3,069-mile cross-country bicycle journey, taking off Sunday morning from Ocean Beach.

Kim and Jon Smith have a very personal reason for this ambitious mission.

When she was just 13, their youngest daughter Tyler was diagnosed with germ cell tumor, an extremely rare form of cancer for a girl. Despite an exhaustive search for a cure that took the family across the globe, Tyler succumbed to her cancer two years later at age 15.

"We lost our daughter 11 years ago," said Kim Smith, who along with her husband Jon is undertaking the arduous trek, biking more than 3,000 miles from San Diego through the southern-most states and planning to arrive in St. Augustine, Florida in early October.

"This trip is going to be very difficult physically and mentally, and we're looking forward to that," Jon Smith told CBS News 8,"but it's absolutely nothing to what a child has to go through, or the family, who has cancer."

"When we were going through treatment, we started realizing we didn't have a lot of options," Kim said.

Limited treatment options stemmed from limited research funding for childhood cancers, which receive in total only four percent of federal funding for all types of cancer research. Nevertheless, more kids and teens die of cancer than any other disease, including AIDS, asthma, cystic fibrosis and diabetes, according to the St. Baldrick's Foundation.

Driven to help find a cure, the Smiths are taking action, embarking on this incredible bicycle trek .

"We're raising money and awareness for childhood cancer research," Jon Smith said.

Expecting to average 60 to 70 miles on bike every day - and also receiving some assistance by a team of supporters - the Smiths plan to share their mission with the rest of the country, talking with civic groups along the way and raising funds for the St. Baldrick's foundation, the largest private donor of childhood cancer research grants.

Last week, to kick off their epic journey, Kim, Jon and some of their backers shaved their heads in a show of solidarity.

"I cried, I cried afterwards," said Kim Smith. "It was very emotional to lose all your hair."

"It's also a way to support and honor those people having to go through cancer treatments right now," added Jon Smith.

Kim and Jon smith are also looking to their daughter Tyler's life as motivation to keep on pedaling.

"We feel like she's our guide here," said Kim Smith. "I think she would be really happy."For more information on Team Tyler Rides, go to www.facebook.com/TeamTylerRides or www.stbaldricks.org/events/teamtylerrides
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