Why I Coach: Michael’s Story
Team Finish Line is at it again! Our goal: to fundraise more than $150,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in honor of 9-year-old Sofia Vezza, who was diagnosed with leukemia in December. But what would Team Finish Line be without our fearless leader? We’re all inspired by Michael Conlon and his support of LLS over the years. Here’s the story of how and why he got involved. Follow the link to read Michael’s family’s touching fundraising story. His sister, brother, and two nieces are also running with Team Finish Line in San Diego in honor of Sofia.
My reasons for initially getting involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society were personal. My brother-in-law, Chris, was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML), and like most serious family health matters, I was left feeling helpless. I quickly learned about Team in Training, and since I was already a runner, signing up for my fourth marathon was a no-brainer. This organization provided me with a purpose to run and provided Chris with a sense of hope. My race came and went but Chris’s fight was not over. I knew there was more I needed to do.
Soon after completing the 2001 Chicago Marathon, I was given the privilege of joining the coaching staff of the NYC Chapter of Team in Training. I have now been coaching with TNT for over 11 years. To say joining this organization was one of the best decisions of my life is a huge understatement. Unfortunately, Chris lost his battle with leukemia in 2002, but the number of people I have met over the years that have beat this disease is overwhelming. I have been inspired and motivated by the participants I coach, the families I meet, and the stories I have heard week in and week out for the past 11 years. I am truly thankful to LLS, and I am committed to supporting and fundraising for this organization for as long as they allow me to.
Unfortunately, my family has been affected by this disease again. My cousin’s 9-year-old daughter, Sofia, was diagnosed with leukemia in December of 2012 and continues to fight as we speak. I did the only thing I could when hearing the news of Sofia’s diagnosis: I immediately emailed friends, family and coworkers to organize a team for the San Diego Marathon in Sofia’s honor. The response was overwhelming. Over 40 people joined our fight to train and raise funds for LLS. As I mentioned, Sofia is currently undergoing treatment. She actually started her third round of chemo this week on April 8 and has been told by her doctors that she is exactly where they want her to be at this point in her treatment. YEAH!!! My cousin went on to tell me that the next phase of treatment is a trial that was directly funded by LSS. It’s not fair that a 9-year-old child is being subjected to this type of treatment, but I am proud to be part of such a powerful organization that changes lives on a daily basis.
I promise to keep you posted on Sofia’s progress, and I promise to continue to do whatever I can until we cure all cancers.