July 13, 2024
Meet the Endurance Athletes Racing to Beat Blood Most cancers
Meet the Endurance Athletes Racing to Beat Blood Most cancers
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When Bobby DeWees’s grandfather died of leukemia in March 2022, he wished to honor him. So, he determined to check his limits. He’d practice to race Hawaii’s Lavaman Triathlon in beneath three hours—and he’d increase $67,000 for leukemia analysis alongside the way in which. 

The problem? Whereas DeWees was an completed athlete, he’d by no means damaged the three-hour mark earlier than. And he’d by no means tried to boost anyplace close to that type of cash. He wanted assist. So, he reached out to a company that quickly turned his energy: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

The Nonprofit That Modified the Recreation

Eighty years in the past, the type of most cancers that killed DeWees’s grandfather would have been incurable. Most leukemia sufferers died inside three months of prognosis. However the elder DeWees truly lived twenty years with the illness—a miracle in comparison with what many different sufferers confronted earlier than LLS got here into the image.

When LLS was based again in 1944, leukemia was nonetheless a terminal prognosis. Like most sufferers, the founders’ teenage son, Robert, died shortly after prognosis. Pissed off by the absence of therapy choices, Robert’s grieving mother and father based the Robert Roesler de Villiers Basis in his honor. Because the small however decided nonprofit grew, it turned referred to as the Leukemia Society, and later, LLS. 

Right this moment, LLS is the world’s largest well being nonprofit devoted to funding analysis for blood cancers, together with leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. These three ailments at the moment account for practically 10 % of all new most cancers diagnoses. They’re additionally linked to about 60,000 deaths yearly within the U.S. alone.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
Bobby DeWees on the Lavaman Triathlon. (Photograph: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society)

However with the assist of LLS, these numbers are slowly declining. Since 1949, the group has raised greater than $1.6 billion for analysis. Right this moment, about 70 % of all new FDA-approved blood most cancers therapies are funded at the least partially by LLS. And lots of of these therapies are extremely efficient. On common, leukemia sufferers now have a 66 % survival price—a far cry from the dire prognosis Robert’s mother and father needed to face. 

In reality, DeWees’s grandfather was capable of survive for greater than 20 years after his preliminary prognosis. “Because of experimental medicine and his never-quit perspective, Pop Pop survived to the ripe outdated age of 90-and-a-half,” says DeWees. 

However that’s not the one cause DeWees picked LLS to assist him on the highway to Lavaman. Maybe surprisingly, LLS’s fundraising campaigns additionally supply the chance to realize entry to personalised teaching. 

Combating Most cancers By Endurance Sports activities

When you’re studying this, you would possibly already know that sports activities can change lives. Athletics are a supply of confidence and energy, tight-knit group and lifelong friendships. LLS acknowledged this early on, and it discovered learn how to channel that energy for yet another larger good: fundraising.

To arrange for Lavaman, DeWees joined LLS’s Crew In Coaching, a program that gives endurance athletes with professional teaching and coaching plans in addition to fundraising suggestions and recommendation. It’s a chance to concurrently obtain your health targets and lift cash for blood most cancers sufferers and their households—all whereas inspiring folks to assist the mission.

It’s a confirmed method: Not solely did DeWees increase greater than $67,000, however he additionally smashed his triathlon purpose, crossing the end line in simply 2 hours and 45 minutes. For that feat, he earned the coveted title of Crew In Coaching’s Rookie of the Yr.

Crew In Coaching is only one of many ways in which athletes throughout the nation are supporting LLS’s work. Yearly, cyclists increase virtually $2 million whereas coaching for occasions like America’s Most Lovely Bike Experience round Lake Tahoe and the two-day Scenic Shore Bike Tour, which takes riders alongside the coast of Lake Michigan. The occasion environment and sense of group is so distinctive that many groups return yr after yr.

Take, for instance, Crew Riders of the Storm, which has been taking part within the Scenic Shore Bike Tour for 20 years. The crew consists of about 40 members, all household and pals of people impacted by blood most cancers. “Each rider is obsessed with not simply biking however about enhancing the way forward for most cancers therapy,” explains founding member Chuck Wagener.

Team Riders of the Storm at the Scenic Shore Bike Tour in 2023.
Crew Riders of the Storm on the Scenic Shore Bike Tour in 2023. (Photograph: Chuck Wagener)

The crew began again in 2003 when Wagener’s brother and several other colleagues acquired a leukemia or lymphoma prognosis inside a brief time frame. 

“So, 4 of us work cronies obtained collectively and requested, ‘What can we do?’” Wagener says. They settled on the Scenic Shore Bike Tour. The crew shortly fell in love with the difficult course and the pleasant, high-energy environment. They discovered themselves coming again yr after yr. 20 years later, they’ve raised $5.4 million for blood most cancers analysis and are the highest crew yr after yr. In addition they maintain the all-time report for funds raised through the journey. 

“We really consider the cash is nicely spent. Our donations are funding analysis and developments in therapy. And a few of these developments additionally assist different kinds of cancers past cancers of the blood,” Wagener explains. On high of that, he provides,“This journey has quite a lot of that means to us personally. Cancers of the blood contact so many individuals. And when you consider the sorts of challenges that these sufferers face, drained legs and a sore bottom actually don’t evaluate.”

Whereas a lot of LLS’s athletic packages contain endurance sports activities, you don’t need to be working towards an enormous PR to assist most cancers analysis. Different occasions—like Shred for Crimson at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Utah deliver skiers from all throughout the nation to have a good time their fundraising efforts with a enjoyable and distinctive day on the slopes amongst celebrated Olympians. And that’s simply it, whether or not you’re becoming a member of an official LLS occasion or creating your personal fundraiser, each little bit counts. 

Becoming a member of the Struggle In opposition to Most cancers

Yearly, hundreds of endurance athletes mix their philanthropic and endurance targets to fundraise for LLS. As they practice for his or her chosen occasions, they concurrently increase tens of millions of {dollars} to assist blood most cancers sufferers and fund lifesaving analysis. Some increase cash by way of Crew In Coaching whereas getting ready the New York Metropolis Marathon, Walt Disney World Marathon, and even an unique hike in a nationwide park. Others make an impression as they put together to cycle up the coast of Lake Michigan through the Scenic Shore Bike Tour or across the shores of Lake Tahoe for America’s Most Lovely Bike Experience.

Whereas all individuals are celebrated, there’s a group of overachievers who go above and past of their fundraising. These people and groups raised a collective $9.6 million for LLS this yr.


All these campaigns assist drive the LLS mission and fund life-saving analysis. However in addition they have one other profit: a domino impact that conjures up one athlete after one other to chase their goals.

DeWees and his Lavaman end impressed his personal father, Don DeWees, Jr., to tackle a problem of his personal. This yr, Don is biking greater than 4,300 miles throughout the U.S. to boost much more cash for LLS. 

“Turning 65 this yr and shedding my dad made me assume it was now or by no means,” he wrote on his Instagram web page. “I made a decision I wanted to do one thing in his honor.” Collectively, the DeWees Household hopes to hit the $100,000 mark by the top of the yr—a legacy Pop Pop could be happy with. 

Bought a race developing? You possibly can assist LLS by becoming a member of Crew In Coaching in your occasion, or by taking part in any LLS Athletic Occasion. Discover ways to turn into a crew member, advocate, or volunteer at LLS.org.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society funds lifesaving blood most cancers analysis world wide, supplies free info and assist companies, and is the voice for all blood most cancers sufferers searching for entry to high quality, reasonably priced, coordinated care. 

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