University of Rhode Island alumna Patty Butler completed a run to remember, from California to Maryland, this past summer to raise money for cancer research.

“It’s just a totally different experience that not a lot of people can say that they’ve had,” Butler said. “It definitely makes me want to help people more. So it has been really fun. This was definitely a life changer.”

Butler did not run cross country or track at URI. She was an athlete in high school and always ran outside around campus, which came easily to her. Butler graduated from URI in May, and spent her entire senior year fundraising for the big summer run. All 139 participants raised a combined total of over $1 million for cancer research.

Her efforts started June 15 in  San Francisco and ended July 26 in Baltimore. Butler teamed up with a group of runners from The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, as they ran a combined 4,000 miles in 42 days. They ran all over, crossing the first state border in Nevada, and running through the Colorado Rockies, bonding more as a group with every step. The squad ran 20.5 miles to get to the finish line at Federal Hill in Baltimore, with some people running extra miles just to be together one last time.

Family and friends met Butler at the finish line, which was especially emotional for her and her father, who had cancer and is currently in remission. The last days were filled with mixed emotions for Butler, who has had anything but a daily routine lately.

“It’s funny, my group and I keep saying we don’t know how to live normally anymore,” Butler said. “We’ve been doing things like living out of dirty vans, so it’s definitely going to be a big adjustment getting back to the real world.”

Butler noted one of the toughest parts of her transition back to her basic lifestyle is the fact she may never cross paths with some of her teammates again. She said since some of them live as far as California and Alaska, it could be difficult.

Each runner had a goal of raising $5,000 for the run, and Butler has nearly doubled it, raising $9,046 to date. The amount of donations was not as surprising to Butler as the fact that some of these people were complete strangers, which was something she never expected.

“I didn’t expect that at all,” said Butler. “My goal was originally $5,000. I definitely never expected all of the support of people who never even knew me. So that was really cool and special. Everything fell together. It just always seemed to work out. A ton of people have been affected by cancer, so it makes it easy when your mission is for a good cause.”