Here at the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, our motto, “Cancer changes lives…so do we” explains exactly what we set out to do every day – change lives for the better, and provide support for individuals affected by cancer. What these words seem to miss is the fact that while we are going about our work with programs like Team FIGHT and Cancer to 5K, our own lives are forever changed, as well.
It was an unforgettable weekend full of emotion, energy, and triumph – almost 50 individuals, including Team Fight’ers, Cancer to 5K participants, and their friends and families ran the Survivor Harbor 7 race this Sunday in Baltimore, MD. On the day before the race, participants in both programs gathered at Amicci’s in Little Italy for some carb-loading camaraderie. To have both groups in the same room was truly special – survivors bonded over their excitement and pride while Team Fight’ers got to see firsthand the fruits of their fundraising: nine cancer survivors that had spent twelve, life-changing weeks together, training for a 4-mile race.
Early Sunday morning, the Team FIGHT tent was buzzing with nervous energy. Runners decked out in yellow, blue, and white wrotededications on their calves to loved ones affected by cancer. Another new Team FIGHT tradition held special significance for me – the dedication circle. Cancer to 5K teammates “dedicated” their race to each other, to their loved ones, to their children, to their friends that ran out of time. All of the pre-race anxiety seemed to melt away from everyone’s faces as we took a collective moment to celebrate and remember why we were all there.
In a blur, they were off! The seven-mile distance racers dashed off towards downtown Baltimore, and the four-mile runners soon followed. Every Cancer to 5K participant had a huge smile on their face – their moment had finally arrived! Standing at the finish line, waiting for the first finishers, I realized that as every Team Fight’er passed, a huge crowd was cheering their name. No one crossed the finish line without a collective yell from the mob of yellow and blue. This sense of family was even more present as the Cancer to 5K runners began to approach the finish line – no one finished alone. As more runners took the final turn into Race Village, their fellow participants, sherpas, and coaches ran out to finish with them. While cancer survivors always joke that being a survivor is not a club that anyone wants to be in, being part of the UCF family really is just that – a family: A community of people you can lean on, share your successes and frustrations with, thrive with. Not only did everyone on Team Fight and Cancer to 5K finish the race that day, but everyone RAN across the finish line, and everyone finished with a huge, contagious SMILE. And THAT, my friends, is what it’s all about.
So THANK YOU to Coach Meg, Coach Hannah, Coach Katie, Coach Jay, Coach Vickie, and Coach Bob for your hard work and genuine dedication to the program and to the runners. THANK YOU to everyone on Team FIGHT, for changing lives by making programs like Cancer to 5K possible. THANK YOU to our sherpas, who helped make Cancer to 5K really feel like a family this spring. THANK YOU to the CT5K alumni, who continue to pay it forward through participating in Team FIGHT or volunteering with Cancer to 5K. THANK YOU to the friends and families of our survivor runners, who stood by their loved ones through the good times, the bad times, and the sweltering hot times (like Sunday morning). Finally, THANK YOU to our survivors – you are all on my mind each and every day, reminding me how to face obstacles with grace, strength, and true grit. We are all so honored to have gotten to know all of you, and we will continue to brag about you to everyone we meet for a long, long time…
The Cancer to 5K program is starting up again this July for our fall season in each of our three locations: Washington DC/Northern Virginia, Baltimore City, and Howard County. Please visit http://www.cancerto5k.com to find out more about the program, register to participate, or to sign up to volunteer. Contact Laura Scruggs at firstname.lastname@example.org / (410) 964-0202 x.108 with questions. Team FIGHT still has several race events coming up, for which we are seeking participants and race weekend volunteers! Check out http://www.teamfight.org to sign up for a race, or contact Susie Montoya at email@example.com. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about race weekend volunteer opportunities.