Wednesday, April 24, 2013

There's something extraordinary about the number 25: Lelia and Team In Training

Bob and Lelia with fellow TNT'ers at
the Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Half Marathon in 2003.
 This year, there's something quite extraordinary about the number twenty-five. Team In Training will commemorate it's 25th anniversary. Lelia Emery (Huber), one of the Georgia Chapter's first Honored Heroes, will celebrate her 25th birthday. And to perfectly complete this trio of events, Bob Huber, father of Lelia and avid LLS volunteer will complete his 25th Team In Training event. Just a coincidence? We think not.

In 1988, Bruce Cleland started a movement when he got a team together to train for the New York City Marathon and raise funds to support leukemia research. To honor his baby daughter Georgia's battle with leukemia, Bruce and his team of 38 runners raised $322,000 for LLS's Westchester/Hudson Valley Chapter. From this effort, Team In Training was born; now 25 years later, the program has prepared more than 570,000 athletes who have raised more than $1.32 billion to support blood cancer research and patient services.

Little Lelia during treatment.
One of the first Honored Heroes from the Georgia Chapter of TNT was Lelia Emery (Huber). Lelia was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in 1991, when she was just 2 ½ years old. She was hospitalized and immediately began receiving aggressive chemotherapy. Lelia's medication was called Methotrexate, which her family renamed "Pickle Juice" due to its green color. Finding ways to make treatment fun, Lelia also decided to name her chemo pump Seymour. Seven and a half years after being diagnosed, Lelia, ten years of age, was considered cancer free. Today, Lelia is a healthy young woman who will soon celebrate her 25th birthday. She lives in Columbus, Ohio and recently returned from a cruise where she and her husband enjoyed their first wedding anniversary.

As a Team Honored Hero, there were many TNT participants training in Lelia's honor. One day she looked at her dad, Bob Huber, and asked, "When are YOU going to do something in my honor?" That was all it took and Bob was officially signed up for his first Team In Training event, the Bermuda Marathon, in 1999. Since that year, Bob has completed twelve events as a participant and coached an additional twelve events for TNT. The North Face Endurance Challenge Series Georgia 50K will mark Bob's 25th event with TEAM. Who knew a simple request from a child would create such an amazing journey? Bob has also participated in LLS's Man & Woman of the Year campaign and is a dedicated LLS volunteer.

Here's a short Q&A with Lelia...

Little Lelia and Bob
Do you have any siblings?
Yes, a brother who is 3 ½ years younger. I was just getting my hair back when he was born.

What symptoms did you experience before you were diagnosed?

I was pale, lethargic and basically everything opposite of a typical two-year-old child. My parents took me to see their friend, who was an ER doctor. He suggested we go to the hospital immediately.

Describe your treatment protocol.

I spent the first month of treatment in the hospital. I was then released and continued to receive chemotherapy from home for about six months. I spiked a fever after each and every chemo treatment. I had 2 ½ years of treatment and 5 years of checkups every 3-6 months after being in remission. After 7 ½ years, I was considered cancer free and was told the chance of cancer returning was slim. I continued with extensive check-ups until I was 17 to ensure I did not experience side effects from the chemotherapy and treatments.

Since you were so young during treatment, what memories do you have from that time?

Two memories that stand out in my mind are my fear of receiving a spinal tap and running through the hospital hallways with a friend I met in the hospital.

Bob and Leila on her wedding day.
Do you have any suggestions for other children who have cancer and are going through treatment?

When I was young, I kept my cancer diagnosis a secret and only told my close friends. I suggest finding people that you can be yourself around. Don’t be afraid to be weird, angry, etc. Talk with a Child Life Specialist so they can get to know you. They can be some of your best help!

How did your dad get involved with Team In Training?

Being a TNT Honored Hero, there were so many people doing such great things for me. One day, I turned to my dad and asked when HE was going to do something for me!

Have you done a Team In Training event?

Yes, in 2003, when I was 14 years old, my dad and I did the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach ½ Marathon. I had such a great time and it was so rewarding!

Where did you attend college?

I graduated from the University of Alabama and am now a Board Certified Music Therapist.

Do you feel your experiences growing up influenced your career choice?

Yes. I attended Camp Sunshine where I met many people who helped me in a variety of ways. I also had friends who worked with music therapists and I saw how much it helped them. I had an internship at a children’s hospital and an adolescent juvenile detention center. I always knew I wanted to give back!

Are you currently working?

Yes, I teach classes at Gymboree.

What are your hobbies?

I love playing with my 4-year-old dog, Grayson.

What are your goals for the next 10 years?

I would like to work as a music therapist. Have 1 or 2 children and I would love to do another TNT event.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Team Purple Spotlight: TNT Staff, Jennie Ellis, goes back to a PARTICIPANT!

The ladies here at Team In Training do not hesitate to go above and beyond for LLS. We recently caught up with TNT Campaign Coordinator, Jennie Ellis, to discuss her walk (or rather, run) on the wild side as she embraces her inner participant and trains for the Rock 'N' Roll San Diego Marathon, taking place this June. With a strong athletic background and her mind on the mission, Jennie trains and fundraises for a cure. Watch out San Diego!

Jennie Ellis and other TNT staff and support staff are all smiles at
the Publix Georgia Marathon & Half Marathon 2013 finishing tent.
(Left to right: Aileen Bleach, Roberta McCunney,
Carey Garrett, Kimberly Williams, and Jennie Ellis)
What is your athletic background? Have you ever done one of these events before?

Growing up, I was always involved in some sort of sport/activity. You name it, I did it. However, I was heavily involved in competitive swimming for many years and ran cross country in high school. I have participated in several 5K’s and 10K’s, but I have never completed a marathon or half marathon before. So San Diego will be my first marathon experience!

Have you ever fundraised before? Are you nervous? 

This is my first experience with fundraising. While I have helped others fundraise, this will be the first time I am doing it on my own. It is a little nerve wracking, but mostly I am excited by the challenge and the opportunity to further support the LLS mission.

What motivated you to sign up?

My aunt, Kimberly Williams, is a coach with TNT. She and her husband Ken have participated in many marathon/half marathon events with TEAM and have always encouraged me to sign up for one, but it never felt like the right time. When I first started working with TNT, I staffed our Atlanta Nike and Chicago marathon teams. I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco with the Nike team and the entire event weekend was a huge inspiration to me. I was so proud of my participants, and so inspired and motivated by all they had accomplished. I knew I wanted that feeling, so I decided to sign up for San Diego.

How long have you been with LLS?

I have kind of run the gamut with our LLS campaigns! I began working for LLS part time in May of 2011 as a recruiter on the Light The Night campaign, then received another part time position as a Campaign Assistant for our Special Events Department before starting to work full time with Team In Training in May 2012. I have really enjoyed learning the aspects of our different campaigns at LLS and am loving working for TNT.

What is your favorite aspect of being a TNT participant?

The thing I enjoy most is getting to see this campaign from the other side, the participant side. It really helps to know what the campaign is all about, why it is so special to our participants, and what makes them keep coming back. You get the opportunity to meet such amazing people and to hear their stories. It is definitely what keeps me going and what motivates me to go that extra mile when it seems impossible. While I have no personal connection to the mission, the participants and patients I have worked with are my inspiration. You know what you are doing is making a huge difference in people’s lives. I feel so fortunate to be able to give back to them by fundraising for LLS.

What goals do you have for the season?

Ideally, I’d like to finish the marathon in under 5 hours. However, I will be happy just to cross that finish line (preferably with my arms in the air and not a horrible look on my face). I have this fear that something will happen the day before the race, like I’ll break my toe or something. So finishing is a definite! Also, I would love to be able to raise at least $500 over my fundraising commitment, which is $3,200. The main goal here is to support the LLS mission so our patients can have access to better treatments and services, and we can eventually find a cure for these diseases. I know every dollar that is raised is critical, so the more that I can contribute towards that overarching goal, the better!

Way to go Jennie !