Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Half Full Means to the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults

Just days after the inaugural Half Full Triathlon and I'm still overcome with emotion from the overwhelming amount of support I witnessed from volunteers, sponsors, spectators and participants. To everyone involved with making this event a success and being a part of our Half Full movement - THANK YOU! To all the athletes that participated in the event - congratulations! Half Full was a success for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults for many reasons. Some of the ones that stuck out to me were:

  • The events ability to bring people together over a weekend to talk about cancer and the unique needs of young adults
  • Peoples willingness to share stories about how they've been touched by cancer
  • Successfully creating a platform in our community to promote health and wellness, offer support and reinforce the importance of hope in the face of cancer.
  • An event where cancer survivors can be recognized for what they CAN do!
Yes, we also raised funds that are critical to sustaining and enhancing our programs for young adults and families facing cancer, like patient navigation, college scholarships and peer support, but I'm just personally blown away by the impact we can have as a community when we simply come together and take a half full approach to fighting this disease.

Half Full began as a vision some 18 months ago, between a small group of people. It has grown to include all of YOU. Half Full was truly an effort of the masses and the numbers behind the field tell the story...
  • 1000+ participants
  • 500+ volunteers
  • 100+ county law enforcement and emergency service professionals
  • 100 cancer survivors participating
  • 400+ athletes participating in honor or memory of someone
  • 100+ relay teams
  • 130+ first time triathletes
  • Athletes from 28 different states: 680 people from Maryland, 4 from California, 20 from Washington DC. Athletes from New York, New Jersey, North Carolina,Utah, Nebraska, Connecticut, Virginia, and Maine!

                        Brock Yetso with Aaron Lyss, first cancer survivor finisher and Brian Satola.

As we close the the door on the 2010 Half Full Triathlon we open up the door to the boundless opportunity of 2011 and beyond. Half Full may have started as a 70 mile triathlon, but I'm getting the feeling it's a lot more than that to many people. So buckle up folks and hang on - the Ulman Cancer Fund for Yuong Adults is excited to keep this bus moving and we're hopeful you will stick around and recruit more family and friends to join us!

Brock Yetso
Executive Director

In addition, I would like to share a blog written by Nicole Kelleher, 2010 NCAA Triathlon Champion and the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults Scholarship Recipient:

This weekend I had the honor of participating in truly the most special event I have ever taken part in. The inaugural Half Full Triathlon drew over a 1000 participants and 400 volunteers (do the ratio on that!) this past Sunday in Columbia Maryland to raise support and awareness for young adults battling cancer. I can guarantee that there has never been a more impressive inaugural event. Headlining the event were Rebecca and Laurel Wassner (the only pro triathlete who has beaten cancer) as well as Eric Shanteau (also a cancer survivor, 2008 Olympian and American Record Holder in the 200m breast stroke) and Doug Ulman (the CEO of Livestrong). This event was run by the Ulman Cancer Fund, a young adult alliance organization with Livestrong, and 100% of race registration went directly to their cause of advocating for and supporting the largely marginalized and under-served population of cancer patients that are young adults in this country.

The Triathlon itself cannot be captured through words on paper. From the incredible major media coverage, the nicest most helpful volunteers on the planet!, amazing gift bag, impressive expo, free Chipotle, free McDonalds, free lace locks, Oakley raffles ect, ect ,ect It had EVERYTHING and even more that you would find at the largest, most well-know triathlon in the country. This event has obviously inspired major support from all directions. This is going to be a HUGE event in the future and an important movement in the triathlon world. The distance was a 70 mile race with a .9mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 run. The distance is significant in that it represents the 70,000 young adults diagnosed with cancer in the US each year. What I really want to talk about is exactly what that means at this race and why this race is different.

I woke up Sunday morning looking forward to helping my relay team with the swim portion of the race, but I was mostly excited because I knew I was about to witness triathlon in a new light. I was right about that. The swim was gorgeous, pancake flat, smooth water. And our relay team won the relay division as well as had the fastest overall time of the day- owing not at all to my swim but by an insane 1:17 half marathon by James Linville and an impressive bike by Scott McAims. And 3 of the top 5 relay teams were from UVA (out of 100 relays!). So UVA had an incredible day. But what was different about the race had nothing to do with the performances of just that day.

Standing at the finish line I witnessed cancer survivor after cancer survivor cross under the large finishing banner, past the photographers, announcers and TV cameras. Most of them would stumble a little after the line as they dropped their faces into their hands and started to weep. These were often very young people. And even more often, these were people that had never done a triathlon before and now had just completed a 70 mile race after battling cancer. Could they have ever imagined being in the finishers ring of such an event the months or years before when they sat in a stark hospital room with a line of chemotherapy streaming into their veins or confronted their mortality in quiet hours alone somewhere – all at such an unimaginably young age? Looking around, people all along the course carried signs with photos and memories of loved ones lost too early- and yet there was hope there too. I was not the only one that noticed. The event was permeated with a hope that cannot be destroyed. Everyone felt it together.

This is one of too many examples to cite during this sacred day. To recommend this race like I have others would not be doing the event justice. This is a race for anyone who has ever doubted that triathlon could change the world or anyone who wants to witness what that change looks like in full display. I hadn’t ever seen it before; but now I have- and I know now that this sport is much bigger than I realized.

Nicole Kelleher and her Half Full friends, first place relay team!

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