From 17 States, They Bonded & Walked Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure

People pose for photo

Walking in memory of Bob Jackisch, from left: (back row) Mike Jackisch and Bryan Jackisch; (front row) Jenny Minnick, Sandy Jackisch, Kathy Jackisch, Rachel Morton and Cindy Morton. Walk photos by Cindy Starr / Mayfield Clinic

They came together, laughed together, cried together and celebrated together. And in so doing, more than 2,000 individuals from 17 states* and the District of Columbia made a powerful statement about their love of family and their determination to find a cure for brain tumors.

Their efforts in the 3rd annual Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure last Sunday helped push the fundraising thermometer toward an unprecedented $200,000. The funds benefit research and education at the Brain Tumor Center at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, one of four institutes of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and UC Health.

“The day was gray and a little cold, but that never chilled the enthusiasm of our walkers and runners,” said Ronald Warnick, MD, Medical Director of the UC Brain Tumor Center. “It was a poignant event, infused with emotion and hope. “The event’s success enables us to keep our annual educational symposium free of charge, and it will allow us to fund two to three new pilot studies in our search for new cures for brain tumors.”

Team Jamie

More than anything, Walk Ahead was a team event. It included 93 teams of family and friends who walked and ran in support of, or in memory of, a loved one. They included:

•    the Jackisch family, which served as presenting sponsor with the largest single donation ever for Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure;
•    Team Jamie, which walked in memory of Jamie “Ice” Isome, who passed away in April 2012 at the age of 36;
•    Deb’s Brainiacs, which earned top fund-raising honors for the second year in a row;
•    For Pete’s Sake, which honors the late husband of Kathy Beechem, Chair of the Brain Tumor Center’s Community Advisory Board
•    Team BrainForest, the largest team with 125 members;
•    Team J&J, whose Matthew Merz was honored as the leading individual fundraiser;
•    The “most spirited” Retired Russian Ballerina team, which walked/danced in memory of Daniel L. Stacey, Jr.; and
•    Tracy’s Trotters, who traveled from St. Louis to walk in memory of Tracy Trotter who passed away in August, only a week and a day after her diagnosis.

People pose for photo

Brian Wiles (left) and brother Joe Wiles.

“One overwhelming sight that left a lasting impression with me was the number and commitment of the individual teams,” said Brian Wiles, a brain tumor survivor who co-chaired the event with his brother, Joe Wiles. “We had teams from one team member to over 125 members. Amazing.  Each team showed a level of passion, resolve and dedication that I have not seen. That makes me want to keep Walking Ahead in the years to come.”

“I am always touched by the hope present at the Walk,” Ms. Beechem said. “From survivors and from caregivers who lost someone — hope lives.”

Rick June, the father of Collin June, who was diagnosed with brain cancer as a young boy, was left with two lasting impressions. “One was seeing the joy at the finish line as pictures of the teams were being taken and people were celebrating the remarkable lives that have been impacted by brain tumors,” he said. “No one wanted to disperse. Despite the cold and clouds, they just stayed there reveling in community!”

People pose for photo

From left, Kyla Woods of WLWT News5 with Rick and Collin June.

The second memory came before dawn, when reporter Kyla Woods of WLWT News5 interviewed Rick and Collin for a 6:30 a.m. report. “Kyla’s response to Collin’s and my interview was something I won’t forget,” Rick said. “The tears flowed as she allowed our story to connect to the impact that cancer had in her own family. It was a powerful moment and suggests that our individual stories may have more impact on others than we ever suspect!”

People pose for a photo

Marsha Wirtz, left, and Debbie Penderghast

“Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure brought passionate brain tumor survivors, caregivers, family members and friends together in support of research and education at the UC Brain Tumor Center,” said Gina Weitzel, Senior Director of Development for UCNI. “But more importantly, it took on a life of its own as new — and what we know will be enduring — friendships were forged among many who were present.”

Richard Curry, III, MD, a neuro-oncologist and a new member of the UC Brain Tumor Center team, enjoyed his very first Walk Ahead. “I am grateful to have the experience of running and walking next to my patients in this wonderful event,” he said. “Seeing first-hand how well brain tumor survivors are doing is a true inspiration to me.”

Event Co-Chair Joe Wiles was so pleased he is already thinking ahead. “It was truly amazing to see record attendance on a cold Sunday morning in late October. The overwhelming support for Walk Ahead 2012 was evident from team to team and amongst all the walkers and runners. We now look forward to Walk Ahead 2013, which will bring us to closer to a cure, and we will need everyone’s support to make this happen!”

— Cindy Starr

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