"Our goal has always been to serve patients from all walks of life," Andy Funk tells PEOPLE

By Nicole Sands
Updated April 21, 2016 04:00 PM
Tomo Muscionico

A Southern California man is gearing up for an epic bike ride in an effort to raise funds for breast cancer care.

Andy Funk, founder of the Pink Lotus Foundation, will ride his bike 365 miles in less than 24 hours to Las Vegas in a fundraiser to provide 100 percent free breast cancer care to low income, uninsured and underinsured women.

The inspiring initiative, Vegas In 24, came to be when Funk and wife, board-certified surgical breast specialist Dr. Kristi Funk, started “witnessing first-hand so many underserved women who are uninsured, whose health plans don’t cover the procedures they need, or low-income women who cannot get Medi-Cal coverage quickly enough and end up with stage 4 breast cancer,” he says.

“We felt it was time to create a nonprofit that let everyone else focus on the cure, while we focus exclusively on women who need help today, not in 25, 50 or 100 years,” says Funk about the 11 million people who are still uninsured in the United States.

With his longest ride in the past being 200 miles, the Ironman triathlete will challenge his abilities on his bike – which he refers to as his “weapon of choice” when he races – on April 23.

“Breast cancer patients go through a ton of emotional and physical pain and stress,” he says about his choice to complete the ride unassisted.

“Patients going through chemo get stripped of all of their strength and are near mental exhaustion, and they often feel helpless and lonely on their difficult path, not knowing if they will arrive safely on the other side, not knowing what additional obstacles they will face now that they have cancer,” he continues.

To be honest and appreciative of what underserved women go through after diagnosis, this was Funk’s way of experiencing the process in his own way.

“To me, biking 365 miles in a single day without support, resembles – as best I can do so – that journey to some degree,” he says.

“There is no doubt that this event will strip me of all physically strength, will emotionally drain me, will make me doubt myself and my ability to finish, and will bring out some very lonely moments over those 24 hours where I will need to make the decision to charge on forward,” he continues.

Rather than starting his journey along the scenic coast of Southern California, Funk plans to ride through the lower-income areas of Los Angeles, as it is those communities where they hope to make the biggest impact.

“When I chose the route for Vegas, I decided I was going to ride through the southern part of L.A. during the night portion of my ride, going straight through Compton and by the Nickerson Garden projects,” he says.

Aside from being a world-renowned breast specialist and surgeon at Pink Lotus Breast Center in Beverly Hills, Dr. Kristi Funk’s name swept the news when Angelina Jolie revealed she performed her double mastectomy after she tested positive for the BRCA gene.

“For the last eight years, we have seen tens of thousands of patients at our breast cancer center, from the low-income all the way up to Angelina Jolie,” he says of he and his wife’s efforts. “Our goal has always been to serve patients from all walks of life.”