Thomasville Times Enterprise

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June 6, 2008

Pedaling for a cause

Teen biking 1,100 miles to boost awareness of hepatitis

THOMASVILLE — One motivated teen is on the road promoting his cause.

John Ellis, 17, of Pensacola, Fla., is riding his bike from Pensacola to Philadelphia, Pa., in an effort to raise awareness of Hepatitis B and support the Hepatitis B Foundation. He made a pit stop in Thomas County Thursday.

“It’s definitely an adventure,” Ellis said in a phone interview as he took a lunch break in Boston. “We got a late start the first day and the heat was unbearable, but we’ve gotten into a routine.”

Ellis’s journey is called the “Believe in the Cure Cycling Tour.”

He embarked on the endeavor June 2 at Tate High School in Pensacola. Accompanying him is his best friend, Jamaal Warren, with his mother and grandmother following behind in a van.

Ellis was a healthy teenager, the foundation release stated, until the results of a routine blood test revealed he had the disease. It was also a surprise because Ellis had received the vaccination in middle school. The youth was also told he would eventually need a liver transplant.

This was two weeks shy of his 16th birthday.

Hepatitis B is “the most common serious liver infection in the world,” the release said, and is caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) that attacks liver cells and can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. It is transmitted through infected blood.

The disease is potentially fatal; there is no cure.

Ellis, armed with information, changed his diet, bought a bike for $50 from a local store and began riding it everywhere.

“I didn’t want to sit around and just fight for myself,” he said. “There are other people out there who have been affected by Hepatitis B. I was also concerned about staying healthy so I took up cycling. I want to spread the word.”

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