This week’s Charity Miles Champion is Casey Oakes. As the month of September closes it also marks the end of Blood Cancer Awareness month. We thought it only appropriate to end the month with an inspiring story. Casey is a Team in Training Alumni, who raises funds and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, in memory of his friend Nick. Casey has already logged over 108 miles this season with Charity Mile,s and is a huge advocate for the app. He shared with us his path to running.
First let me say – I am not a runner. I’m not. I’ve never
been athletic. I’m pretty sure I once struck out in tee-ball in second grade.
So how did I end up here; willing myself one step at a time at ungodly morning
hours to prepare for my marathon?
It all started two years ago when my friend Nick Steece
passed away. Nick was 23 and spent the better part of a year battling leukemia.
He endured 6 rounds of chemotherapy before passing away. Nick’s death hit me
really hard. Up until that point I had been really fortunate – Nick’s passing
was the first time in my life I truly encountered loss. I
did a lot of reflecting. Nick was an amazing person who packed a lot of life
into his 23 years.
So I did what any self-respecting 20-something would do – I put
together a bucket list. I wanted to travel (#10 London; #11 Paris). I wanted to
meet amazing people (#25 The President; #22 Britney Spears). Way down on the
list were a couple items I thought would take a while to accomplish: #34 run a
marathon & #39 raise $10,000 for charity. Deciding that carpe diem was my
new motto, I started doing some research on the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
(LLS). I was hoping LLS had a charity 5k,but they didn’t. Instead they had
“Team In Training.”
familiar with Team in Training (TNT)? I wasn’t either. TNT is the flagship
fundraising program for LLS. Essentially it’s an endurance sports training
program that raises money for blood cancer research. I decided to register for a marathon. A decision that turned out to
be equal parts foolish and serendipitous.
For months I trained. I ached. I whined. Running is hard y’all! But on March 26th,
2014 thanks to the amazing coaches at TNT, and awesome teammates, I finished my first marathon! Better yet – I raised $3,972 for blood
I crossed the finish line, crossed that item off my bucket list, and
decided my career as an amateur charity runner was over. I’d just write checks
from there on out.
was wrong. Later that week, I got a card in the mail from Danny Hernandez.
Danny is a marathoner (a real one),a former marine, and just an all-around
awesome person. Unbeknownst to me, while I was training for my race, he was undergoing
treatment for Stage 2 Lymphoma. The money I was raising for LLS was actually
paying for medicine that helped him into remission.
Right then I decided, I can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. Not
when someone is diagnosed with blood cancer every 3 minutes and LLS is
literally saving the lives of people like Danny.
Next month I’ll be running in
the Marine Corps Marathon with Team in Training. I have a $10,000 goal. Thanks to Charity Miles and the amazing companies like Johnson & Johnson, Humana, and CVS
Health, that with each mile brings me closer to my goal.
P.S. We’re always looking for new team mates! LLS has 54 chapters throughout and U.S. and Canada. Team In Training programs are available
within these chapters, and through TNT Flex, which allows people to train with
the Team regardless of their proximity to a chapter or training location. To
learn more about upcoming events, or to join the team, visit www.teamintraining.org. And don’t forget to log miles for LLS next time you open the app.