Amongst the IA network there are more than a few dedicated runners, including our Imerman Active team (participating in the Chicago Marathon on Sunday!), but it may be safe to say that no one runs further for Imerman Angels than Adrian Belitu.
Adrian (LEFT) at the Spartathalon in September 2009
Founder of Benefits of Giving and The Endurance Club, Adrian is an ultra-distance runner who participates in races of over 100 miles all over the world. His most recent event was the Spartathalon: an invitation-only, 135 mile run from Athens to Sparta that took 36 hours to complete. Having lost both of his parents to cancer, Adrian decided to run in support of IA.
Dedicated to The Endurance Club motto “raise more than just a sweat”, Adrian has expanded his passion of running into a fundraising opportunity that had originally generated $5K for IA. He will not stop there. By creating Benefits of Giving, he plans to work alongside our goals of growth over the next few years by attempting to raise a million dollars to aid in our mission of connecting cancer fighters and survivors for 1-on-1 support.
Ultra-distance running, according to Adrian, is an individual challenge within a community event. Runners speak to one another as they journey over mountains and push through hours of intense physical exertion while helping each other make it to the finish. Similar to this, Adrian believes that athletes can benefit from collaborating towards a fundraising effort and making a big difference together. His million dollar goal, with support of athletes around the country, will be possible.
Through Benefits of Giving, an athlete can turn any competition into an opportunity to improve the lives of people fighting cancer. Not limited to distance runners, athletes across disciplines are able to identify an event to dedicate themselves to and, from there, a customized fundraising page can be created! The site allows each participant to track the donations that they have received: friends and family can click “Donate to Me” and quickly submit money to the mission of their choice.
Dedicated competitors can take their game to the next level by enrolling in The Endurance Club, which will allow them to, through fundraising, collect “points” on the site that can then be applied towards entry fees for future events. They say that good deeds are paid forward and The Endurance Club is proof of this!
Visit The Endurance club!
Visit Benefits of Giving!
To kick off Chicago Marathon Week, we caught up with Imerman Active teammate, Michael Wall, who not only runs for Imerman, but raises money as well. He was kind enough to answer some of our questions!
- Imerman Active Teammate, Michael Wall
Q: Michael, how are you involved with Imerman Angels?
I am a member of the Imerman Active team, which is a group dedicated to individuals who participate in athletic events in support of Imerman Angels. Imerman Active participants work to raise money and increase awareness to benefit 1-on-1 cancer support through Imerman Angels.
Q: We feel very fortunate to have you on our Active Team. What inspired you to run and fundraise for us?
My family and loved ones have been hit pretty hard by cancer, some of whom were able to beat it and others, unfortunately, who were not. Those experiences and losses have stuck with me. They are why I chose to get involved with Imerman and what have been the driving force behind my training. The special characteristic of Imerman that has really made an impact on me is their focus on the person. All charities and organizations focused on treating and curing cancer are amazing in their own special ways, but the tangibility of the Imerman Angels is what makes it so special to me.
Q: How did you get involved in running? How long have you been a runner?
I started running early in life (The 7th Grade) but I was never a “runner” so to speak. For most of my life, running was a part of offseason preparation for upcoming sport seasons. As I got older, and as my days as an athlete disappeared, I discovered that I had developed a real enjoyment for running and today it is just as much a part of my physical health as it is my mental health. I often joke that it’s my “drug” in that no matter what may be going on in my life I can always put on my headphones and just go. Running often helps me to put life situations into perspective and I often see things more clearly. There just always seems to be something that I experience, or see, or a thought that comes to mind while running that helps me to gain perspective. It’s something I truly value.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about Sunday?
What I’m looking forward to most on Sunday is the experience. I’ve set a pretty lofty goal in that I’m trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which at this stage of my life will be a tough task. I’ve been really working hard to achieve that goal, but even if I come up short it will be the experience that I am looking forward to the most. Arguably the greatest distance runner of our nation’s history, Steve Prefontaine, once said that “the real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test to the limits of the human heart.” I could not agree more! It is why I run, it’s why I’ll be running on Sunday, and it’s why I’m running for the Imerman Angels.
Special thanks to Michael for his contribution and all that he does for IA! We wish you the best of luck and will be at the marathon cheering you on!
Cec Strine, teacher at Cranbrook Schools Brookside of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, can speak to the impact of community support on an individual. As a salivary cancer survivor, she shared with me the importance of the Cranbrook family, as she took the disease head on:
“The extended Cranbrook family supported us so much. People that you didn’t even know about… who quietly had cancer.”
Joining together with Sarah Jacobs, an alum, parent and breast cancer survivor, the two created an idea: a victory lap against cancer around Kingswood Lake.
Tomorrow, September 27th, will be the first annual “Cranbrook Envisions a Cure Walk” sponsored by the school’s Cross Country Team. Like many things, this event has been a community effort. From the event logo (designed by a 6th grader within the school system) to the preparation for the big day, this has been yet another project where Cranbrook students, faculty, parents, grandparents, alumni and friends were able to join forces.
Cec is close to the Imerman Community for several reasons. Not only was she a teacher of Jonny, who attended Cranbrook as a student, but she also participated in a 1-on-1 pair-up relationship through IA. Tomorrow, she will be walking in memory of her mother to: pay tribute to those battling cancer, support research for a cure, and celebrate life. JI is excited to be amongst those attending, as well as a featured speaker.
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.”- Maya Angelou.
Cec shared that this (above) has touched her through her cancer journey. Though cancer is an ugly disease, she had found that it was also a blessing in disguise and an opportunity for her to give back to those who had shown her love and support. The cancer walk is the perfect opportunity to come out for Cranbrook, Cec, and those fighting cancer all around the country. Stop in and cheer on the walkers!
Optional donations will be made to Imerman Angels.
IA Connects a young woman with Ovarian Cancer with a survivor across the country!
Last week we connected a 17 year old girl living in Pennsylvania fighting stage III Ovarian cancer with a 20 year old survivor from Portland, OR (but going to school here in Chicago) who survived stage III Ovarian cancer and is doing great. She is excited to give back and inspire others with her story! We also connected their Moms for caregiver support. It was the perfect family pair-up!
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Jessica D'Andrea (middle)
My stomach was clenched in six different places. My heart was beating like it does right before it stops. I was wondering if my mind could race any faster. This was how it felt at the end of the eight-hour day of mammograms, ultrasounds and several biopsies.
The breast screening area was filled with at least fifty women. Many of them were quite older than my 34 years. Why was I here? It was probably nothing but a calcification. I tried desperately to console myself as each test went by. I refused to look for hours until I happened to peek during one of my mid morning ultrasounds. There she was. My doctor had her ultrasound wand firmly placed on my right breast with her eyes closed and her mouth moving in what seemed to be a quick prayer to God. I knew things were growing more serious as they explained that they needed to do a biopsy. No one made a sound in the room. They knew. Everyone in the room knew. It was cold and sterile and very lonely back there.
I walked out to the waiting room where my sister, her three kids, and my mom were waiting that Friday. We assumed that I would be free to shop for my sister’s birthday after my “quick” mammogram. My internist had just found a lump five days prior during a routine check up. I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t look sick and this had never been in my family. I had just grown my blonde hair to my shoulders. I had worked out every day since I was 18 and I ate all of the right foods. I had no idea how this had happened. After a long weekend of wondering if I had cancer, if I would die from cancer, if I would lose my breast to cancer, if anyone would want me during or after the treatments, the phone call came from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “You have small breast cancer,” someone on the other end of the phone said. I collapsed and began to shake and cry. My mouth uttered these words to my mom, my dad, who went into cardiac arrest, my sister, and my on again, off again boyfriend. Phone calls were made and appointments were desperately sought after. Waiting lists were long. Many women had to wait four months to even get a consultation, but somehow I got in because someone had just cancelled.
They arm you with one hundred pamphlets, and surgical advice, and a litany of tests, which needed to be completed before they can perform any sort of lumpectomy or mastectomy. What the docs can’t give you is information on how to move forward, emotionally. I began sobbing when they told me that I might not be able to have children, that the IVF treatments could spread my cancer, that my hair would fall out, my skin would change colors, and my weight might change. My entire world as I knew it was over, in a matter of one week.
When I got home, I scoured the Internet for everything or anything that might help me understand what was about to happen. I looked up and down for information on chemotherapy, radiation, fertility treatment options, and I wanted to know a lot about my hair. My hair seemed to be the most devastating news, next to having breast cancer, of course. I came up with only negative accounts of chemotherapy treatments, rants about radiation burning holes through skin, and long lasting side effects of medications. Everything was pointing towards doom. My depression was deep. My sadness was palpable. I wore it like a sagging sweater. My eyes were dark and I actually had stress lines on my face that would not go away.
A friend of mine, Jeff Brunstein, having heard of my predicament, had happened to be speaking with a friend at the East Bank Club, when he was told about Imerman Angels. The IA pamphlet, literally, blew into his lap at the rooftop pool and he just laughed! “What crazy luck!” He then dropped it off at my house. We exchanged hugs and I went inside to lie down.
Eventually I made my way to the kitchen table where my “cancer research” was conducted. I went on the Imerman Angel’s site and clicked on the “testimonials.” I happen to click on a woman named, Laura Alexander….
(Jessica’s story will continue September 16th. Check back to hear about her first meeting with Laura and stay tuned for more true stories of CANCER SURVIVORS and PAIR UPS in our series.)