Elyse YarnellElyse Yarnell, a member of the Imerman Angels Professionals Board, lost her mother to breast cancer when she was in high school. Elyse is honoring the memory of her mother, who was an avid runner, by joining Team Imerman Angels for the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

“I think of it as an opportunity to run the marathon ‘with’ my mom and for her, since she is no longer here to do so herself,” Elyse says.

In fact, Elyse considers it an honor to run for anyone who cannot do it themselves. She feels a deep sense of empathy for them, as she would be crushed if she was in that position.

“When I train, I do not look at it as, I have to run this morning. Instead, I think to myself, I get to run this morning. It is a privilege,” she says.

Elyse was introduced to Imerman Angels by a friend who had written an article about the organization for CNN. Propelled by a desire to give back and her strong bond with her mother, Elyse joined the Professionals Board in 2015.

“Imerman Angels was not available during my mom’s fight with cancer. She did not have anyone who truly understood what she was going through. I was 15 years old at the time, and my brother and I were her main caregivers. We were so young. We did not have anyone to tell us, ‘I have been there before and this is how I got through it.’ So I want to make this type of support available for anyone else whose life has been affected by cancer, whether they are a cancer fighter or caregiver,” she says.

Elyse started running when she moved to Chicago in 2011 and completed the Chicago Marathon for the first time in 2014. However, it was volunteering with Imerman Angels at the 2015 Chicago Marathon that piqued her interest in joining Team Imerman Angels.

“I was inspired by everything I witnessed that day, including the energy and excitement the runners felt when they returned. Plus, I felt it was a great opportunity to run for a cause I am passionate about. When you volunteer with Imerman Angels, you almost immediately see the direct impact matches have on cancer fighters and caregivers. It is incredibly gratifying to know you are playing a part in making those matches possible,” she says.

Elyse has also reaped the benefits of the support system the Imerman Angels community offers. She appreciates the resource role Team Imerman Angels leadership takes on, as well.

“Although this is not my first marathon, I still have many questions, and team members are always happy to answer them. There is no such thing as a dumb question. They also break down the prospect of training to run and fundraising in a way that assures you will achieve both,” she says.

Elyse’s motivation to help others comes partly from her mother, who is her role model and who she hopes to emulate. At one point during treatment, her mother’s stomach was a bit enlarged. Someone inquired about the due date of her baby. Instead of acting defeated, her mother chose to take it as a compliment that this person thought she was still young enough to bear children.

“My mother’s response is a true testament to her strength and the character I want to cultivate within myself,” Elyse says.

Interested in running alongside Elyse and her teammates as they strive to reach their goal of creating over 1,000 matches? Join the largest Team Imerman Angels ever for the Chicago Marathon to help celebrate 10 years of one-on-one cancer support and raise critical funds for more matches.