Why I Run
Anyone who has ever lost a loved one to cancer knows the feeling of helplessness. That feeling of not being able to do anything to make it better. You watch them battle the disease, cope with the side effects of chemo treatments, endure the agonizing wait for test results and tumor markers, and all the while, try to live every single moment they have to the fullest.
In July of 2008, I lost my dad…my hero, the greatest man I have ever known…to esophageal cancer after a gallantly-fought, nearly two-year battle. That first year without him was an unbelievably painful one for my family, and as the first Father’s Day approached, I knew I had to find a way to channel the overwhelming sadness and anger I was feeling. A way to try to relieve that feeling of helplessness, to make a difference, to do something to help people who were still fighting the battle. I grabbed my computer and started randomly searching for cancer fundraising events in my area. I came across a few, but as I looked further into where the money that was raised went, I was disappointed to find that most of it went to “administrative costs.” While certainly wonderful organizations I’m sure, this wasn’t the type of difference I needed to make. Finally, I stumbled upon the Damon Runyon 5K website. I loved the fact that 100% of the money raised went directly to cancer research, and while I’m definitely not an expert in the field, I was amazed at what seemed like ground-breaking work that their scientists were doing. To top it off, my dad was a big Yankees fan so the unique venue made it seem like the perfect fit!
I remember tentatively mentioning the event to my mom a few days later and asking, “What do you think? Do you think we’ll be able to get ten people to go? That would be so great!” So I reached out to my family and friends, and without even a moment’s hesitation on their part, they were in, and Team Rhino was born. Much to my surprise and delight, instead of 10 people that first year, we had 22! The next year, our number of team members grew to 25. And year after year, the number has continued to climb. This year will be Team Rhino’s eleventh Runyon 5K! Nieces and nephews who were just toddlers when we began, now run the 5K with us! My initial goal of 10 (which seemed a bit out of reach at the time) was blown away with over 60 members last year (and that doesn’t even count the loved ones we have who come cheer us on from the Spectator Section of the stadium!). While I had set a fundraising goal of $100 eleven years ago, Team Rhino has now contributed over $26,000 to cancer research through this event. Unfortunately, the number of loved ones we have lost to cancer since we began has also grown, but that simply fuels our desire to continue to participate and do our part to help battle the disease.
Initially, this event was a coping strategy for me…a way to channel my sadness and fight back against a disease that has taken so much from the people I love…but it has grown to mean so much more to all of us. It is a day that, no matter how hectic everyone’s schedules are, we all come together, we share countless laughs, we pose for silly stadium pictures, and we celebrate the lives of those we’ve lost. It has become a cherished family tradition, as important to us as Christmas holidays and birthday gatherings. Through the Runyon 5K, we smile, we laugh, we heal, but, most importantly, we make a difference.
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