"Every Mile Counts Toward A Cure" Cincinnati Enquirer

Rob Emrich, founder of Road of Life, begins trek in memory of his sister.Rob Emrich is the sort of guy who might decide to walk from Cincinnati to Cleveland for no particular reason at all.

But the 24-year-old Columbus resident, an avid hiker and bicyclist, had good reason to set off from Great American Ball Park Thursday on a 312-mile trek from one end of Ohio to the other.

It is the memory of his sister, who died 17 years ago from neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nerve cells, and his hope that he can teach thousands of other Ohioans about cancer detection and prevention that will keep him going for the next 16 days.

"So many people think that cancer is something that you get and then you automatically die," Emrich said.

"I want them to know there is hope."

Emrich's mission to educate others about cancer prevention and treatments was born in the pain and bewilderment he felt as a 7-year-old boy, watching his sister die and not understanding why.

After four years as a pre-med and philosophy student at Ohio State University, he was working at the university's cancer research lab when he founded the Keren Rebecca Emrich Cancer Research Foundation. The non-profit organization, named after his sister, markets a cancer prevention program for college students and an educational curriculum aimed at fourth-graders.

His walk across Ohio, called "Road of Life,'' is sponsored by private individuals and foundations. Individuals can dedicate a mile of Emrich's walk to a loved one who died of cancer on the organization's Web site.

Thursday, Emrich, clad in a bright yellow T-shirt and red bandanna and leaning on two fiberglass walking poles, set off toward the east on Pete Rose Way on the first 17-mile leg of his journey.

He walked down Eastern Avenue through the East End and up Wooster Pike through Fairfax and Mariemont before calling it a day in Milford.

Today, he will hike up the Little Miami River bike trail from Milford, which will land him in Xenia by Sunday afternoon.

Then, the journey zigs-zags through towns such as Cedarville, Westerville and Akron before ending on Sept. 20 at Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

"There's going to be a big party there when I arrive," said Emrich. "Maybe I'll jump in the lake."

By Howard Wilkinson The Cincinnati Enquirer