Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA (PennLive.com) - Of all the motivations that drive a man to put his body through the rigors of a 26.2-mile marathon, Steve Sponseller wrote his on his back.
The name emblazoned on Sponseller's running jersey the day he ran the Maine Marathon in October 2006 was that of his friend, mentor and temporary running partner.
It read, simply, "DAD."
Three months before the race, Sponseller's father, Ed, was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma, a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of which the typical life expectancy is 2-3 years after diagnosis.
Although chemotherapy treatments at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore had previously sapped the strength and energy from Ed, the former Chambersburg Area School District superintendent, he joined his son in Portland that day and even ran the final mile side-by-side with him.
Five years later, Ed is well thanks to experimental therapy at Hopkins and Steve is celebrating his father's health by running the marathon again.
"All of your training, you're doing it for someone in particular," Steve said. "I'm running for my dad. (The last time) was pretty special."
The two have always been close and Steve struggled with the news of the diagnosis in July 2006. As a boy, Steve remembers his father's dedication to healthy living and his regular runs over the hills of Caledonia State Park. Ed was always a strong man, but was now bed-ridden with an uncertain future.
"The worst part of cancer is the unknown," Steve said. "You don't know how it will affect different people. Some bounce back like it never happened, while others don't make it. That's one of the hardest parts for patients and family members."
Ed spent nearly a month at Hopkins that July, undergoing chemotherapy treatment. The hospital was experimenting with new ways to fight Mantle Cell Lymphoma and administered a regimen that sought to destroy his blood cells and eliminate the cancer. Steve said the benefit of this treatment was the avoidance of an initial bone marrow transplant, which is common in lymphoma treatments.
Providing emotional support for his father was one thing, but Steve wanted to do more. He and his wife, Amelia, joined forces with Team in Training, the world's largest endurance event fundraising organization.
The Sponsellers's goal was to raise over $2,000 each for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. With the help of family, friends and others who knew Ed, the Sponsellers generated over $10,000 for the cause.
"It was a huge shock," Steve said, of the outpouring. "We were very grateful to be getting letters and checks in the mail from people who wanted to donate. We had letters from people we didn't even know who heard about it and wanted to help. People wrote some really nice things in their letters to us."
Because Ed was in good physical shape before the diagnosis, he rebounded quickly enough to join Steve for the race.
With a little more than a month remaining before this year's Maine Marathon commences on Oct. 2, Steve's goals are twofold. For one, he wants to improve on his time of 3:27.27. He also wants to top the $10,000 worth of donations he raised for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society the first time.
Steve is hosting a barbecue fundraiser at his Maine home next month with local businesses donating food and beverages as well as items to be put up for a silent auction. Among the items open for bidding are tickets to sporting events, jewelry and art.
Ed said, "I'm very proud."
How to donate
To help Steve Sponseller raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, people may use a credit card on his fundraising web site, pages.teamintraining.org/ma/maine11/ssponselle or by writing a check to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and mailing it to Sponseller at 7 Horseshoe Drive; Scarborough, Maine 04074.
For more information, e-mail Sponseller at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Copyright 2014 PennLive.com
Updated 1100 days ago Article ID# 1189376
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society