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 of 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.”
Not 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 cancer research.
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.
I 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 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 teammates! 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.