Contact: Cate Summers
RICHMOND, VA, Feb. 20, 2010 — Every Saturday morning, a few dedicated Richmonders wake up with the sun and prepare for another early morning of physical activity in the name of a worthy cause.
You may have seen them running passed your house. Usually clad in purple or white jerseys and often running, cycling or power walking in packs, these inspiring athletes dedicate at least four to six months of their lives to preparing to complete an endurance event. In exchange for expert coaching, travel and lodging accommodations, commemorative souvenirs, and not to mention the experience of a lifetime, Teammates in the Virginia Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program (TNT) agree to raise money in the name of LLS while being trained to complete a full or half marathon, 100-mile century bicycle ride, or triathlon.
On Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010 at 8:30 a.m., the Richmond Team will meet at the Direct Buy parking lot on West Creek Parkway to pay tribute to its local patient honorees and all those experiencing blood cancers. Cyclists, marathoners and triathletes will ride or run their first mile as one unit, in complete silence, reconnecting with LLS’s mission and reengaging with the personal stories of their local Honored Teammates.
Founded in 1949, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is dedicated to raising funds to find a cure for blood cancers. Its mission, to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families, is the driving force behind the efforts of all of its volunteers and employees. Every four minutes, a person is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Every ten minutes, someone loses his or her fight, resulting in a loss of 146 people a day to blood cancers. As of June 2008, a total of 388 active LLS research grants support scientific studies at academic centers in the United States, Canada and 14 other countries. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society awarded a $600,000 grant to Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center researcher Steven Grant, M.D., to develop a new laboratory-based strategy for the treatment of advanced chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and related acute leukemias. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is the third-highest ranked volunteer health organization in the country, committed to putting 75 cents of every dollar raised toward their mission. Investigators supported by LLS have helped advance molecularly targeted treatments like Rituxan,® the first FDA-approved, targeted anti-cancer antibody drug, that can kill blood cancer cells without harming normal cells, and continue to develop cutting-edge treatments for patients with blood cancers, many of which can also benefit patients with other diseases.
So often, people are asked to raise funds for a charity with very little understanding of how valuable their efforts are. LLS’s patient honoree program connects Teammates with individuals who have battled or are battling a blood cancer so that Teammates may create their own connection to those facing these diseases. Some patient honorees are also TNT alumni themselves. Teammates may compete in honor of a patient they know personally, or in honor of someone from the area who has volunteered to share his or her story.
Before embarking on their route, patient honorees like Nicki Patton will speak briefly, sharing their stories and setting the mood for the morning, “Anyone of any athletic ability can complete an endurance event, while raising money to improve the lives of those affected by blood cancers,” said Patton. “As a Teammate, a mentor and a patient honoree, it has been a life-changing experience for me and one I will never forget.” Other local patient honorees include Ed Stone, Art Ritter, and Katie Powell. Stone, a seasoned TNT alumnus, was training for the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg, FL. Ed has completed 17 events with TNT since undergoing whole-body radiation to fight leukemia 20 years ago. Ritter, a TNT alumnus and mentor, has been in remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma for seven years. Ritter has completed four marathons with TNT and serves as a first connection volunteer for patients who are newly diagnosed with blood cancers. He has also begun training and fundraising for his fifth event, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon on June 26, 2010. Powell is in training for her first TNT event, the St. Anthony’s Triathlon. Her sister Erin raised over $7,000 in Katie’s honor for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach in 2007. Powell survived Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 27.
Teammates in Team In Training have athletic abilities ranging from novice to very experienced. Some Teammates have never done an endurance event before and do not consider themselves athletes or runners, while others have seen the notable purple jerseys while participating in past events and have sought out TNT specifically. Others join the team in an effort to lose weight or get in shape and, in the midst of their training, develop a heartfelt connection to the cause. Marathon coach Chuck Smith joined TNT in 2006 to lose weight, “Original goals of fitness and weight loss selfishly motivated me to join Team In Training. Those thoughts have long since been replaced by the passion for victory in the war on blood cancers fueled constantly by stories of hope and survival, tragic loss, and amazing results through funded research,” said Smith.
Triathlon coach Steve Griffith has been involved with TNT for four years and attests that, “by the end of each season, it's the connection to LLS’s mission that binds the team, motivates the spirits, and energizes the body to accomplish something previously unattainable. I'm touched by the caring and giving of every Teammate, every time.”
For a complete list of upcoming information meetings and events or to find out more about the patient honoree program, visit the Virginia Chapter’s Web site at www.teamintraining.org/va.
Patient Honorees at the Aug. 22, 2009 Silent Mile
About Team In Training:
TNT began in 1988, when Bruce Cleland of Rye, NY formed a team that raised funds and trained to run the New York City Marathon in honor of Cleland's daughter,, a leukemia survivor. Since then TNT has raised over $950 million for research, patient aid programs and community outreach programs. For more information visit http://www.teamintraining.org/.
The goal of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is to cure Leukemia, Lymphoma, Hodgkin's Disease, Myeloma, and to improve the quality of life for patients and their families. For more information about blood cancer, visit www.LLS.org or call the LLS Information Resource Center (IRC), at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET