When you run and raise money for a great charity, everybody wins.
Written by: Bob Babbitt
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society—Team in Training
The year was 1988. Bruce Cleland from Westchester, N.Y., had a very young daughter who had been diagnosed with leukemia. He decided to gather together some friends and raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research by running the New York City Marathon. They even brought on the 1983 New York City Marathon champion Rod Dixon from New Zealand to help train them. “That first event raised over $320,000,” says Andrea Greif, the director of public relations for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “Over the years we have trained more than 440,000 people for events and raised over a billion dollars.”
Team in Training (TNT) and their purple singlets are everywhere. There are 59 chapters in the United States and Canada; they are involved in more than 200 events each year and TNT has 60 national events on their schedule for 2010.
One of the amazing stories that Greif was working on had to do with a 36-year-old mother of two who had been dealing with a number of mysterious symptoms. She was fatigued, in constant pain and had a series of rashes. The doctors couldn’t find the cause. “A lot of these diseases are very difficult to diagnose,” admits Greif. On the day her kids were going back to school in the fall, she was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with myelogenous leukemia. The doctors did a stem cell transplant with the woman’s sister, and the mother of two is now in remission. She spends time volunteering for the Leukemia & Lymphoma First Connection Program where survivors are paired up with patients who have been newly diagnosed. “Having someone to talk to who has walked in your shoes is so important,” says Greif.
One of the society’s newest programs is called TNT Flex. It was created to serve the people who live in remote areas of the country so that they can hook up with a training program to get ready for an event. “With TNT Flex,” says Greif, “you can get all of the benefits of the Leukemia Team in Training experience but online. You still get your own coach to get you ready for race day, and the online community becomes your training group. It is becoming more popular every day.”
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America—Team Challenge
The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) has been around for 42 years and there are 50,000 members and 40 chapters nationwide. But only recently, in the past three years, has it connected with the wonderful world of endurance sports. The first year—according to Ariella Levine, CCFA’s marketing and communications manager—there was a total of 50 runners raising money for CCFA at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon. For the 2010 Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half Marathon in early December, they had over 1,000 participants signed up. By Nov. 1, still more than a month before race day, they had already raised north of $2,000,000. That’s what you’d call making an impact. “A lot of people have connected to the cause,” says Levine. “Moving forward, we’re involved now with the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon, the Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon and the Kona Half Marathon. Every single day more and more people are being exposed to our cause, and to how they can help raise money to find a cure by participating in one of these running events.”
Deb Frank is a mother of two and will be walking the marathon in Las Vegas for her son Matthew and the 150,000 other children in the U.S. under the age of 18 who live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Matthew was diagnosed at the age of 6. His symptoms were constant fevers and horrible stomach pains. It took a number of trips to the doctor to finally determine that he had Crohn’s, a form of inflammatory bowel disease.
“Matthew was really miserable and emotional at the beginning because he was on steroids to control the disease,” says Frank. “He was taken off the steroids, but that caused his health to spiral downward again. Fortunately, with the help of a breakthrough drug, Matthew is doing much better.”
Frank is part of Team Challenge because she doesn’t want Matthew to live his life wondering when the disease will flare up again, or worrying about the side effects of the medication. “She doesn’t want her son to be limited by the disease,” says Levine. “That’s why she’ll be walking 26.2 miles in Las Vegas with us.”
American Cancer Society—DetermiNation
The year was 1996. Dennis Fitzpatrick had just lost a close friend to cancer and wanted to do something to honor his life. So he walked into the American Cancer Society (ACS) office in Chicago and said he wanted to raise money for ACS by running the Chicago Marathon. What started with one person has expanded around the country to 85 race partnerships and about 7,000 runners raising over $5,000,000 for the American Cancer Society in 2010 alone, through the training program DetermiNation. “What’s unique about our program is that everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer,” says Jesica D’Avanza, the director of strategic communication planning for ACS. “By running, we can try to take control of a disease we have no control over. While people are out training, racing and raising money, at the same time they are getting in great shape and changing their lives for the better.”
Alison Tibbetts is the project manager of fundraising resources for DetermiNation and a fundraiser herself. During her seven years in Chicago, she has raised more than $40,000 for the cause. “When I ran my first marathon,” she recalls, “I was so moved by the experience; I realized that there is a lot more to life than working in advertising, which is what I was doing at the time. I saw so much potential.”
She left advertising and went to work for the American Cancer Society seven years ago and, when DetermiNation became a national program in 2007, she became part of the team. “I’ve been to 15–25 events, and I just returned from the Marine Corps Marathon,” she continues. “At our pre-race dinner, a gentleman who was running the marathon spoke to the group. He is now in remission from testicular cancer. He spoke to us about the determination he needed that got him through his days as a Marine, the determination he needed to get through his cancer treatment. Watching him use that same determination to finish his first-ever marathon is something I’ll never forget.”
Susan G. Komen for the Cure—Marathon for the Cure
Beth Crider is now the marketing manager for the Marathon for the Cure program. How did that happen? Well, she was working for the charity, and three and a half years ago she asked Stefan Strickland, who ran the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K Series, why Susan G. Komen didn’t have a marathon program. “I’m a marathon runner, and I thought it would be a good idea,” says Crider.
Obviously Strickland agreed.
The program is now in its third year and will be involved in 10 events in 2010; the goal is to raise north of two million dollars with 1,500 participants around the country. At the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas Half Marathon, seven dollars of every entry fee goes to support the program. “We are a fundraising program, and we partner with training programs in different markets,” Crider says. “We don’t have a training program of our own. We depend on people raising money for us through the events we are involved with.”
The program is growing by leaps and bounds. The first year they were involved in five events and this year it’s 10. A month after each event, the fundraisers who meet their financial goals receive a coupon code that they can use to redeem prizes. “A lot of people don’t redeem their prizes, but a number of people love reaching a goal and being rewarded,” says Crider. “One of our fundraisers received a tent for reaching his goal of $6,000, and he was ecstatic.”
Marathon for the Cure has worked with the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for the past three years. The first year, there were 14 runners who raised $30,000. The second year, there were 50 runners and $80,000. Just this past October, 150 runners ran the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for the Marathon for a Cure program and raised $200,000. That’s obviously a program on the rise. “We have our Race for the Cure 5K Series that has been around since 1982,” continues Crider, “plus now the half marathon and marathon program and our three-day 60-mile walk. Now we can connect people to curing cancer and keep them engaged in our cause all year long.”