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Why We Do What We Do: Stories Behind the Scenes of a 5K

August 23, 2010

Saturday morning was the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of work.

The Hotter ‘n Hell 5K to benefit the American Cancer Society went off smoothly and, despite a small glitch involving data processing and misplaced runner forms, the event ended well too. Two hundred ninety-four people participated in the second year of our event, which raised $8,320 for the fight against cancer.

I’m thrilled with the result, grateful for the help of all the volunteers and staff who made the event a success, and excitedly looking forward to next August when we will have an even bigger and better race.

I’m also incredibly humbled.

It happens a lot around here, actually. See, working for the American Cancer Society isn’t just some gig on the road to bigger and better things. Many of us, myself included, believe we have been called to be here. People need us. Cancer patients and their families need help and support. Researchers on the cutting edge need dollars to find cures. Legislators need to hear from us that cancer must remain a national priority if we are ever going to defeat this family of diseases.

All of that last paragraph is the stuff I can recite off the top of my head because I’ve worked here for eight years. It’s ingrained into my DNA at this point. I love talking about this organization and what we do. More than anything, I love watching other people get just as passionate about the fight against cancer.

So, if you will indulge me, I’ll share a couple of those stories with you.

  •  Tracy Tramel ran the race in honor of her husband, Tim, a brain cancer survivor. Tracy trained using a “couch-to-5K” training system so she could be ready for race day. We talked or e-mailed several times in the lead-up to the event, and she told me several times how excited she was to be doing something to fight back.
  • Patrick Dee walked the 5K, his first ever. Patrick is himself a brain cancer survivor and is still undergoing treatment. He was cheered on by his lovely wife, Kate, and their beautiful sons, Connor and Henry. Patrick was the last person across the finish line (a position with which I am quite familiar), but it didn’t matter. He was out there, and he did it!

  • Working behind the registration table was Bonnie Hufford, one of my dearest friends in the world who has survived leukemia and who not long ago underwent a stem cell transplant in a battle against multiple myeloma. Without Bonnie’s help, many of the details — goody bags, sponsor gifts, course signage — would not have happened in a timely manner. Although her hair is only now beginning to grow back, she gave of her time for several days in a row and on race day to bring the event together.

I also thought of folks who weren’t  there.

  • Jeffrey Rowe, another brain cancer survivor who is battling a recurrence. He’s become quite the athlete since his first bout with cancer and, although he has taken to bicycling, had hoped to be on the course Saturday. A visit with his doctors at Vanderbilt prevented that from happening, however.
  • Becky Harris recently lost her father to cancer. She ran in the first Hotter ‘n Hell 5K last year and helped secure door prizes and helped promote the race. Her reason for not being there was good news, it turns out. She was out-of-town visiting her newborn grand-daughter.
  • Holly Thompson is, unfortunately, a newcomer to the cancer journey. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and will soon begin chemotherapy. I don’t know Holly or her husband, Dan, personally, but I have corresponded with Dan via Twitter and e-mail.

These are just the stories from Saturday that I know about. There are others, people I’ve met at other events and meetings. Volunteers I work with in the advocacy realm of our organization. People who inspire me to work as hard as I do every day of my life — who inspire all of us– because we all want the same thing. We all want a world without cancer.

May that world come sooner rather than later.

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