Thursday, June 17, 2010

Paying It Forward by Danielle Howard

“It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.” ~Mother Teresa

It is seldom in life that we are able to give back to the people that have given to us. Often, when we give back it is by paying it forward to another person. Yes, we have reciprocal friendships and familiar relationships, but returning kindness given to you from a stranger is rare.

This weekend, I was given the opportunity to do just this. Many months ago, I wrote of a wonderful group of men and women who were racing in a triathlon to raise money for Leukemia and Lymphoma. They have taken the time to get to know me, cheer me on as a move through the different phases of treatment, threw me a baby shower after Collins was born and have raised over 50,000 dollars towards research to find a cure for this horrible disease. Well, this was THEIR weekend! The triathlon was in Charlotte and I was able to attend. I was able to listen to THEIR stories of how they got involved with this wonderful cause, as they had been listening to my stories for the last six months.

The night before race day, I sat with them as they were given instructions for the following day. I saw expressions of fear, worry, self-doubt and I was able to place my hand on THEIR shoulder to say they can do this, as they had written to me so many times previously. I traveled with them to the track in the morning and watched as they prepared for their upcoming day. I listened to the prayers and pep talks. I watched this TEAM take their places as they began their swim. As each teammate surfaced from the water, I cheered. We cheered and cheered until the LAST teammate came from the water. It was at that point that the lump in my throat began to take form. I was the last one of my cancer friends to come out of the water. I cheered as each of them finished chemo and radiation, wondering if it would ever be my turn. As that last teammate made their way up the shore, I screamed and cheered as these teammates had done for me.

They biked, they ran, and as they did I was there to cheer them on. Each teammate passed with a smile. I watched as coaches ran along side their team to cheer them on. I made my way to the finish line to be present as Susan crossed the finish line. I watched as the ENTIRE team waited for their last member to cross the finish line. This team member has a special place in my heart. She is a fellow non-Hodgkiner whose cancer has recently relapsed. She raced knowing that in July she will begin treatment again. As she rounded the corner towards the finish line, to find a mass of her teammates waiting for her, she smiled huge and shouted “GO” to which the “TEAM!” was quickly given back to her.

It was this moment where the lump that had been slowly growing in my throat, grew wings and became tears. I stepped back from the crowd, took a quick stock of all that had transpired over the last nine months, six months, week and day. I smiled, raised my arms in the air, screamed out loud and let my tears flow.

This was an amazing experience. I am so grateful to the TEAM for loving me and letting me be a part of this. When this journey began I wanted nothing to do with this process. The thought of being called a “hero” was entirely too self-serving for me. However, as I sat in chemo and watched the number of people that were treated I realized that a cure needed to be found. From my chemo chair there was little that I could do, but I could lend my face and my story to a cause that could potentially keep another from enduring the torture of my last nine months.

I have undoubtedly strengthened the bond between my self and Susan, who I now consider Momma Bear, as she is always thinking of others before herself. She took amazing care of me this weekend and is a remarkable woman. I have made friends with people on the team I would have never met if cancer had not been placed in my life. Jo, one of the coaches, and my sister from another mister, said it best – I hate the way I met you but I’m glad you’re in my life. To everyone on the team, I love you! I have images from this weekend that will travel with me for my entire life! You have each made a mark on my heart and are amazing people, you will help find a cure, of that I have no doubt. And to my fellow and hero Jill – see ya in 2012!

This post is published here with permission by Danielle Howard and taken from her blog Thank you for sharing and inspiring us Dani!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Four Men, Four Bikes, One Cause!

This Saturday, four local men will start riding across the country—on two wheels! With a goal of cycling from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland in less than a week, the dedicated men are participating in Race Across America (RAAM). Beginning June 12, Dave Armento, Frank Fuerst, Tony Myers and Jerome Rossetti, will ride through 16 states, rotating shifts 24 hours a day.
This is the second year the men have participated in this event. In 2009, they crossed the finish line in seven days, eight hours, six minutes, first in the four-man 50-59 age group, and fifth among all four man teams.
Known as the Georgia Chain Gang, the team is using the event to raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The men are supported by a team of ten crew members, including two time Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor Warren Bruno, owner of Atkins Park Restaurant in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta. The team’s fundraising goal is $160,000 but they have already raised more than $90,000 even before the race has started!! Having Warren on their team and others in their hearts, serves as an incredible inspiration to continue to fundraise even harder.
Cyclist Dave Armento lost a sister, uncle and father-in-law to leukemia. "I am looking forward to the ride itself again but I am also looking forward to making a difference," he says. "Research has come a long way in treating blood cancers—there are now 85% success rates---so hopefully we can help raise awareness and success rates even higher."
The four men are all avid endurance athletes—having completed marathons, Ironman triathlons and long-distance cycling events. To prepare for this race, the men have trained inside about 7-10 hours per week and have completed multiple 60-100-mile rides outside averaging at least 300-400 miles week.
"We wish these committed and dedicated men the best of luck on their race," says Dick Brown, executive director of the Georgia Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "But most of all, on behalf of the 900,000 Americans now living with a blood cancer, we thank them. They are making a tremendous difference in the lives of so many people—one every four minutes—that are diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma."

Learn more about the Georgia Chain Gang at
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Julie's Challenge by Bruce Scruggs

Sugar and spice, and everything nice, isn't that what we were told girls are made of when we were young?!! I happen to still believe this is true, and for reasons unknown, I still prescribe to the "girls should have long hair, and boys should have short hair" theory. So when my friend Julie Wolfe, decided to chop her hair off to raise money for her Chicago Marathon campaign, it was a natural reaction for me to challenge her on it. Of course, as soon as I did, another friend, Mallory Chandler, reminded me I had contributed to her cause by paying her to cut her hair just a couple of weeks ago!! As Scooby would say, "Rut Ro!!", what to do now? I've told one friend she should cut her hair, and another one she shouldn't. Boy, did I get myself into a pickle.

Of course, this is all in good fun, and as anyone who has subscribed to receive this blog knows, we all have the same goal, to cure this cancer!! Julie's initial goal was to raise $500 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by taking donations to encourage her to cut her hair. As many of you know, I'm always up for some fun, and a good challenge, so I threw down the gauntlet and pledged to get Julie to her goal if she DIDN'T cut her hair. So Julie agreed to amend the rules of her poll and allow people to donate and vote for which direction she should go with her hair cut!!

Now I need everyone's help!!! Since posting the challenge, I've been steadily losing ground on my efforts to save the pony tail. Let's have some fun, and get the word out about the challenge, if you have an opinion on the topic, make a donation and vote your conviction. Will it be "pixie" or pony tail? The "long and short" of it is that we can all help make a difference while having some fun!!

Julie Wolfe is one of our 2010 Chicago Marathon TNT Mentors, but is an 11Alive News backpack reporter by day. You may have seen some of her news pieces featuring TNT'ers in the past. Follow Julie as she blogs about her Team In Training experience and running in general at

Bruce Scruggs first joined Team In Training in 2009 and has quickly racked up several TNT events under his belt. Next up for Bruce, the 2010 Chicago Marathon.

What I Learned in San Diego by Sally Last

Prior to this weekend, I had completed three marathons with Team In Training and when I think back to event weekend for each of those races I have some great memories of friends made and goals accomplished. Looking back on this past weekend in San Diego with TNT at the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, I once again have some amazing memories, but these ones are a little different.

As a captain, I had the opportunity to spend the day out on the course cheering for and running with our Atlanta participants and other people whom I met along the way. I have always loved the spirit of event day and annoyingly yelled "Go Team!" to anyone who looked like they might care. However, I’ve always still had my race to run, so I’ve never been able to fully take in the sites. This weekend was different as I logged over 31 miles all over the race course in whatever direction (I got a quite a few looks while walking the wrong way) and at whatever pace seemed fit for the situation. Along the way I saw most of our full marathoners and met some amazing people from around the country. My experience made me truly realize the power of Team In Training and the amount of heart it takes to complete an endurance event.

Serving as captain of this team has been an extremely rewarding experience for me and I would highly recommend that others consider being a member of a team’s support staff. There’s something truly special about advising and encouraging others and watching them work towards and achieve their goals. There are several moments from this weekend that stand out in my mind and truly remind me of the value of our TEAM. I wanted to share a few moments from my race day to give others a different perspective of an endurance event:

  • I got to photograph an Atlanta team member with his honored hero who was out on the course supporting him.
  • I met a Southern California TNT participant in his 70s. When I asked him if he had done a marathon before he said yes and that he had stopped counting because he was over 50 marathons. He told me that he had come to value just doing an event and was long past getting concerned about time. It was a great reminder that a marathon is about much more than the amount of time it takes you to go 26.2 miles.
  • I ran with the number one fundraiser in the nation who raised over $50,000 and talked to her about how she had been so successful with her fundraising.
  • I was reminded of the power of my all-star team of mentors as I saw them encourage other team members and refuse to let them fall behind.
  • I exchanged text messages with a team member who couldn’t make the trip and got to share his words of encouragement with one of our participants on the course.
  • Around mile 24 I told a participant that it was ok to cry at that point if she needed to as I have done so myself around that point. About 30 seconds later we came across a participant with one leg and no arms and our Atlanta participant quickly pointed out that she had nothing to cry about.
  • I got to show off my awful vocal skills while "singing" "Livin’ on a Prayer" for an Atlanta participant as we ran through the finish chute, which brought back memories of my amazing Nike coach doing the same for me on multiple occasions.
  • I got to cross the finish line with our coaches Tommy, Kimberly, Lisa, and also Jessica, a first-time marathoner on our team. She followed her finish with the best victory dance I’ve ever seen.
Sally Last, a TNT Georgia alumnus and mentor, just finished her fourth season with Team In Training as Captain of the 2010 Rock 'n' Roll San Diego TNT team. Sally is moving soon and leaving the team, but we are sure that she will make herself at home with her new chapter in her new destination. Sally, you'll be missed and thank you for your commitment to the team.

Jessica Cohen is a first time TNT Georgia participant. We are thrilled to call her a marathoner...congratulations Jessica! Jessica has also raised close to $3,000 this season for LLS.

Inspired? Team In Training Georgia is currently recruiting for our Fall and Winter season events. Visit or call (404) 720-7842 for details.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rose's Quest to Reach $80K Before Her 80th Birthday by Lori Rasmussen

Can you raise $80,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by the time you turn 80? You think so? What if you were 79? Could you do it then?

If you were Rose Rolfsen, you’d find a way!

In 2003, Rose Rolfsen of Baton Rouge traveled to Florida to watch her youngest daughter, Beth Rolfsen, compete in the St. Anthony’s Triathlon. Beth is a member of the Georgia Chapter of Team In Training and this was her first triathlon. She was learning the ropes of triathlons and was raising money to help fight blood cancer.

In the triathlon world, your age is written on your legs in large black numbers. As Rose watched the race, she was intrigued to see people of all sizes, shapes and ages! "I can do this," she said to herself.

A few years later, to celebrate her 75th birthday, she joined Beth on a triathlon relay team. Beth trained for the swimming and cycling portions and Rose trained for the running/walking portion. They have been doing this event together ever since!

Since her first triathlon, Rose has raised over $50,000 for LLS by canvassing her neighborhood on foot and tapping local business leaders in Baton Rouge. She trains for the event by walking 2 to 3 miles each week day and 5 to 6 miles on the weekend. Once each week, she walks 1 ½ miles to a gym, works out with weights, and then walks home again!

This year, she hatched a bold plan: 80 by 80! In honor of turning 80 this year, she plans to raise an additional $30,000 to make a grand total of $80,000.

Rose is mother of 7 and grandmother of 20! She is active in her community and keeps a schedule that is not for the faint of heart. Since cooking is something she enjoys, she uses that talent each month to feed the 20 residents at Boys Hope/Girls Hope and the 40 residents at the Bishop Ott shelter in Baton Rouge. Once a week, she also helps to serve lunch to 300-400 people at the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall. And if that isn’t enough, on Tuesday nights her college-aged grandchildren come to her home with their friends to enjoy a home cooked meal!

When you talk to Rose about her goal, she sounds motivated and confident. According to Beth, once she makes up her mind to do something, she does it! Fortunately for LLS, Rose has made up her mind about this challenge!

Beth Rolfsen is a long time Georgia Chapter TNT alumnus and is also one of our triathlon team coaches. She is currently riding with the cycling team and heading to Lake Tahoe to ride the America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride on June 6th.

Rose Rolfsen has completed five St. Anthony relay triathlons with Beth. She will once again compete with her daughter in the 2011 St. Anthony's triathlon. Help Rose reach her goal of $80,000 by making a donation here.