Tuesday, January 10, 2017

9th Annual Super Bowl Pool

It is hard to believe this will be our 9th year.  Time flies.  A lot of progress has been made in the fight against cancer over those years but the road ahead is still a long one. Friends and family continue to receive life changing and perhaps life ending diagnoses. That is why we keep fighting and keep raising money. This year I will be interviewing soon to represent Team in Training at the 2017 Ironman World Championships.  I wrote about it here.  If I am successful, the funds raised here will go towards my $130,000 goal.  That will leave a long long way to go but it will be a start.  For now, we hope you join us and add a little spice to game day.

In case you have never participated in a Super Bowl Pool..........it is very easy.  Each pool has 100 boxes that are assigned a number for each team in the Super Bowl.  For each $20 box you buy, you will be randomly assigned two numbers........one for the AFC team and one for the NFC team.  Using last year as an example, you may have been assigned a 4 for Carolina and a 0 for Denver.  If this were the case you are rooting for any score that has Carolina ending in a 4 and the Broncos ending with a zero (Carolina 24 - Denver 10, Carolina 24 - Denver 0, Carolina 14 - Denver - 30, etc, etc, etc).

The pool is a great way to add some excitement to the Super Bowl. As always, half of the pool will be distributed to the winners and half will go towards finding a cure for cancer via a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Based off the $20 per box entry fee, $1,000 will be donated to charity and $1,000 will be split as follows:
  • 1st Quarter = $125
  • Halftime = $250
  • 3rd Quarter = $125
  • Final Score = $500 
The Super Bowl will be held on February 5, 2017.  Last year we sold out 3 pools and this year we are working on our 2nd one as I write this post.  It would be amazing to match last year but we are grateful for everything whether we do or do not.

To recap the rules:
* 100 Boxes per pool
* $20 per box to play
* We randomly place you in a box on a 10x10 grid. Each box contains two numbers - one for the AFC champion and one for the NFC champion. If the numbers match the score at the end of each quarter you win! Just to be clear, we literally randomly place your name in the grid and then randomly pull numbers for the grid.  It takes a while but assures every aspect of each grid is by chance.

How to pay:
1) Email Lori Jomsky or myelf (we can DM you our email addresses if need be) how many boxes you would like. The more you buy the more chances to win and fight cancer. You can also reach out via FB or Twitter @lj3000 (Lori) and @run2savelives (me)
2) Give Money directly to Chris or Lori if you happen to know us IRL
3) Mail a check payable to Lori Jomsky (so we can divide the money for charity/winners): 4211 Via Entrada, Newbury Park, CA 91320

Thank You!!!! We hope 2017 is off to a great start for you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Road to Kona 2017

There has been a lot going on in my head lately and I believe I might better collect those thoughts if I attempt to put them down on paper.  I have applied to represent Team in Training at the 2017 Ironman World Championships next October.   Last year there were 3 entries available nationwide.  This year there might be less……….might be more.  I will interview with Team in Training next month but that is not why my mind is pre-occupied.  I trust the process and I trust Team in Training.  I am confident they will choose the person or persons that will best help us get closer to a cure.  If I am not chosen, I will certainly be disappointed but that will not take away from what I have accomplished to date and it will not change my feelings of sincere gratitude towards Team in Training for eternally changing my life.  If I am chosen, however, I will be ecstatic and petrified all at the same time. 

“Always Do What You Are Afraid To Do”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

A recent conversation with my Mom goes something like this:

Me: I have applied to participate in the Ironman World Championships for 2017.
Mom: Really???!!!!!  I was so scared watching you at Ironman Florida.  I am not sure if I can handle watching another one.
Me: There was no reason to worry in Florida.  You absolutely should be worried about Ironman Kona.  It scares the sh*t out of me!
Mom: Why do it then?
Me: That is why.

There are many subparts to the answer (which unfortunately for you I might detail) but at the highest level I want to participate in Kona because it absolutely scares me.  It is such a grand event in the world of endurance sports and it is a grand event in the world of Team in Training.  As such, failure has a greater cost and fear of failure grows exponentially.  I have completed 4 Ironman distance events to date.  Kona is different.  I have raised a lot of money for Team in Training.  Kona is different.  I have seen success but what does failure on the final stage mean?  Is it what you will be remembered for?  Will people look past your one failure and remember all the good you did?  Will I, myself, be able to look past failure and remember all the things I accomplished?  What will your family think?  What will your friends think?  I honestly do not know the answers to these questions but I welcome the opportunity to find them out and I will give it all I have to be successful for I will be all that much stronger of a person for having given it a shot:

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."
-John Bingham

As a coach for Team in Training, I always talk about the journey to race day being so much more important than the actual race.  When you are out on the course………no matter the distance…….it will be the memories you made prior to race day that invade your thoughts.  It will be the hard work, the tough workouts, the fear, the doubt and the stories you heard along the way that occupy your mind out on the course.  My journey has been a long one………….I will need every bit of the 140.6 miles to think about my road to Kona. 

The first part of this journey actually begins as a teenager sitting in front of a television with my best friend……..my Dad.  It was 1982.  Her name was Julie Moss.  If you witnessed this race 34 years ago, you will never forget it.  She was leading the race by 20 minutes starting the marathon.  That is a mammoth lead as Ironman events go but over the course of the next 26.2 miles, her body would deteriorate.  She would ultimately lose the ability to stay on her feet as the finish line was in view just ahead of her.  She would keep getting up.  She would keep falling down.  She would ultimately be passed with literally yards to go.  She did not win on that day but she continued to crawl until crossing the finish line.  It was unbelievable and one of those moments that can forever change you. 

While all of this was transpiring, I was a high school cross country and track athlete.  I was decent.  For not having been in  the sport of running for long, I could knock out a 10K in 36 minutes and I helped my team out on the cross country course.  That being said, I watched the 1982 Ironman World Championship thinking you had to be insane to even attempt such a feat and despite some personal running success…………I remember clearly thinking this event was beyond me.  While that might be a normal thought process for a 16 year old (Chris McCormack excluded), my thought process would be the same 22 years later when stumbling across the doorstep of Team in Training.  Thankfully my time with this same organization taught me about self imposed limits and how to push past them:

"What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability.  It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are."
Anthony Robbins

“What we could not do yesterday has no impact on what we can do today”
Yours truly

The second part of this story is the one many of you are familiar with.  It is why I ever started writing at this blog.  You can read all of my earlier posts but it started in 2002 when my father was diagnosed with leukemia.  

My Dad several days before becoming an Angel
He would fight until January 2004 when cancer would win their battle.  During the 15 months my Dad fought to stay alive, my daughter Isabella passed away. Shortly after my father lost his fight, my wife was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with my son Jaden.  She would win her battle this time and again when it returned 5 years later.  This part of the journey is what defined me.  To be honest, I think this part of the story created me.  It woke me up to my potential.  It was a tough time. 
My wife winning the 1st of 2 battles

Cancer took a lot from me.  It has taken a lot from my friends.  It has taken a lot from the world.  What cancer did not expect, however, is for me to fight back.  For a brief moment after cancer took my  father, after God took Isabella as an Angel and after it tried unsuccessfully to take my wife, I curled up in ball.  I was defeated but only for a moment.  After that, I stood up in strength and started fighting back.  I started making a difference in the fight against cancer.  I started changing my life and the lives of others all the while trying to honor some promises I made to my Dad, daughter and wife.

During this second leg of the journey, I accomplished some amazing things. Once my father was in the terminal stage of his fight, I moved back east to be with my parents until the end.  During this time, I felt helpless.  There was nothing I could do to change things.  I tried my best to keep my Dad occupied and to make him laugh. We managed some good memories in those final months but I always felt I needed to do more so I came up with the idea to run a marathon in his honor.  Even when I was a solid high school runner, the thought of running a marathon instilled a great deal of fear in me.  My father was the kind of soul that looked for opportunities to stare fear in the face so I thought this was a meaningful tribute.  This is when I found Team in Training by accident………or perhaps God escorted me through the doors of that small running shoe store on Hilton Head Island.  The owner of the store was a coach for Team in Training.  Not only could I run a marathon but I could raise money to fight back.  Now that I knew there was an avenue to honor my father, I was off and running.  That introduction led to my first marathon which led to my first Century Ride which led to my first Ironman which led to coaching for Team in Training so that others might experience the joy of accomplishing more than they thought possible………so that others could fight back for their loved ones.  I have fundraised for 13 events.  Twelve were for Team in Training and one was the 2014 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year campaign which launched We Will Find a Cure.   I am not sure the exact total of funds I have raised over these events but it is somewhere around $250-260,000.  As a coach, my Westside team has raised millions of dollars to help us find that cure and many of the people I coached have gone on to do amazing things. It is my legacy, if you will, and fills me with great pride.   

While I am proud of all these accomplishments, I am truly the blessed one to have been granted the opportunity and ability to participate in these events.  Many of my favorite memories are wearing purple as part of this amazing organization……either crossing a finish line or coaching on the course somewhere in the country while others realized their dreams and potential. People often say to me that Team in Training should be grateful to me for my accomplishments.  I honestly never feel this way…….not for a split second. My story of loss made me who I am…….I was born out of the trying times but without Team in Training there would be no platform to realize my potential.  There are not enough years in my lifetime to repay Team in Training and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for what they have provided me.

To spend a little more time on Team in Training and perhaps provide a little more detail, my strategy as a participant has been to build from event to event and show progression so that I was putting myself on the line while asking for donations one more time. To leap to the conclusion, it is this progression coupled with the third and final part of my story (detailed below) that makes Kona the important final piece to this puzzle.  I started with a marathon.  Next I signed up for the Century Ride without even owning a bike.  I followed that by signing up for an Ironman without ever having swam one lap in a pool in my life.  Given this, it goes without saying that the Ironman was the first triathlon I ever signed up for.  It may not have been smart but it was strategic because I could write about my insanity when asking for critical donations.  I did not always outdo myself from event to event. Sometimes I simply changed the story and trained for a friend’s loss versus my own………. sometimes I did both as with 216.8 Miles For Ryan which was my last fundraising event for TNT.  Ryan was the son of Katie Mattingly who is an amazing lady that made her way to one of the marathon teams I coached.  Ryan is a survivor with a complicated story and I came up with this crazy idea to do three events on his behalf. I completed a marathon, my first 50 mile ultra marathon and closed out with my 4th Ironman at Coeur d’Alene in 2013………all adding up to 216.8 miles.  Shortly after this 4th Ironman (June 2013) and shortly before Sarah Weston Clark, friend and amazing LLS member, recommended me for the 2014 LLS Man of the Year campaign (December 2013), my athletic journey took a turn for the worse which is the subject of the third part to this story below.  Before getting there, however, it is important to talk about the Man of the Year campaign.  As I mentioned earlier, Sarah Weston Clark recommended me to participate in this competition.  Truth be told, she not only recommended me but stood by my side the entire way. She shared in my joy, my fears and stood by me when the tears started to flow during the 10-week campaign. 
Man & Woman of the Year top fundraisers

I am digressing but I will forever be grateful for Sarah believing in me enough to throw my name in the mix.  It was a life changing experience that was really difficult to sign my name to………tied to the same fear of failure that would accompany a Kona nomination.  Ultimately, it was the enormity of my fear that prompted me to accept the nomination.  My Dad would have done it.  I had to.  Besides that, I had coached hundreds, if not thousands, of people to stare fear in the face and shove it out of the way.  It was time for me to do the same.  I agreed to participate, some amazing people stood by my side and we won having raised $126,000 in 10 weeks.  You might look at this resume and think it is enough.  For me, there are still people suffering, I am still breathing, cancer is still breathing and circumstances changed that make Kona quite the challenge for me.  I am very afraid of it.  I think about it in my sleep.  I think about it all day with every step I take.  This leads to the final part of this story.

As mentioned, Ironman Coeur d’Alene was my 4th Ironman.  It was only supposed to be a training race before making a strong run at a great time for a to be determined 5th race.  Once my body recovered from this 4th event, I began to train again for number five.  I was in great shape.  I train by heart rate and I was at the peak of my life.  I was confident but I guess I should have known from my earlier story that life can change in an instant.

September 7, 2013.  Most of my Ironman workouts were in the dark or a lit pool late at night.  Ironman requires hours of work but I always commit to take as little time away from my family as possible.  This unfortunately meant training alone most of the time but the perk was being able to get to all of my kids events.  On this particular Saturday, I got a later start than normal although I was still one of the first people to hit the streets.  I was only riding about 25 miles so I started on a course I had traveled literally hundreds of times before.  I rode through Marina del Rey, across Ballona Creek into Playa del Rey and crested the hill on Vista del Mar that led to a view of the ocean to my right.  It would now be only 2 miles until my left turn on Imperial Highway to head into Westchester Parkway.  Because it was early enough, there was minimal traffic and minimal cars lining the street that would later be packed with beachgoers.  One pickup truck.  That is the only car I saw and the only one needed to disrupt the day and my life since.  I always scan car windows to determine if someone is inside that could cause some harm.  All looked clear but I was wrong.  In an instant, the door flung open too fast for me to make an adjustment.  I slammed into the door of his large Sanford & Son steel tank, flew about 10 feet and landed in the street facing the wrong direction.  I remember three things: the driver dropping an F bomb, some horrible pain in my left arm/shoulder and staring at a Volkswagon quickly approaching me as I lie in the street.  From there, other riders stopped, cars stopped, police and fire trucks showed up along with an ambulance and, of course, my family as they had been contacted.  

There is no need to relive the entire day.  I was in pain.  I hoped I would heal quickly.  I managed to only miss one week of coaching the 2014 Fall Westside Marathon team although I probably should have missed more.  At one point I thought all that was lost was my bike………an amazing bike at that.  I had a Specialized Shiv that was relegated to a trash dumpster.  Time would prove that the bike was not the only one to suffer long term damage.  I would spend hours and hours in physical therapy for my injuries.  In time, my right knee would give in tied to the impact from the accident and I would have surgery.  

Pre-surgery note to the surgeon

In more time, the tendon in my right foot would give in and I would have to decide on whether to have another surgery.  This decision was important for two reasons.  The first is that it forced me to withdraw my application with Team in Training for the 2016 Ironman World Championships. That was a very tough day for me but there was no way I was going to risk taking someone’s slot when I might not be healthy enough to participate.  The second reason this decision was important was tied to timing.  I proceeded ASAP with the surgery with the sole intention of giving myself a chance at this 2017 opportunity.  
That is my tendon. You can see the tear.

2 weeks post surgery. 2 hours pre blood clot drama

As it turns out, withdrawing my application was a smart move.  Complications resulted from the surgery.  I developed blood clots which significantly delayed my recovery.  Even as I write today more than 3 years later, I train with a great deal of caution.  I have had setback after setback but am finally making some progress (last week as of writing this I trained over 170 miles which is a great sign).  This being said, the road ahead will be full of land mines.  I can hammer out training on the bike and in the pool but will strategically run the least amount possible to finish the race.  There have even been days when my right foot creates challenges on the bike………..sometimes I cannot get out of the seat to pedal or have to use my left leg for most of the effort.  One of many things, none of which I can really pinpoint with accuracy, can trigger a flare up in my foot.  It will eventually pass but I proceed with caution on a daily basis all in the spirit of protecting my chance at crossing the 2017 Kona finish line.  My current life is having to practice everything I have ever taught.  Daily I have to push past doubt.  Daily I have to push past fear.  Daily I must believe with my heart when my mind tells me to give up.

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.”
Frank A. Clark

Kona would be full of obstacles.  My goal would be to raise $130,000 as it would be a personal fundraising record for me.  That is quite a significant amount of money and I will need an army of support to be successful.  Will people help me yet again?  I honestly do not know the answer but I must remain hopeful.  Will I be healthy enough to finish 140.6 miles?  I honestly do not know the answer to this question either.  I am damn certain I will have setbacks.  I am certain I will have to overcome injuries and I am certain there will be many times that $130,000 seems out of reach. If I get past these obstacles, there is the heat.  I am old which means I know my body well and it does not respond well to heat.  My heart rate is unbelievably higher in heat than the moderate temperatures of SoCal so I will have to train differently and race accordingly which means slow down.  My first Ironman finish was in 100+ heat.  I barely survived that day and barely crossed the finish line in time. For now, I can only hope I get the opportunity to face these fears. If I do, I will give it everything I have to be successful and I can only pray that you guys will stand by my side yet again.  Either way, thank you to everyone that has been a part of my journey.   I would have accomplished literally nothing without people stepping up time and time again to join me in battle. 

Forever grateful,
Christopher D. Wilno

Friday, July 31, 2015

Isabella's Day 2015

August 1, 2015

Dear Isabella,

Another year has passed but that does not make your birthday any easier.  I wish it did. I wish I could say I were stronger and no tears were shed at the silence as I awake each year on your birthday.  I’m not that guy. I’m not that strong. Happy 12th sweet stuff.  I don’t know what Heaven is like but I hope…… despite the wings..... you get to experience the joys of childhood as if you were here.  For selfish reasons, I hope that your childhood starts over again when my time here is done. I want a do over.  I want to hear your first words, help hide your first tooth and see the wonder in your eyes as you experience new things. Until then, thank you for being my inspiration. Thank you for the motivation to be the best person I can be in the hopes you are watching and in the hopes of leading a life worthy of spending an eternity with you. I know I am far from perfect. I know I have a lot of improvements to make.  I know, however, I have accomplished great things and met great people and gone beyond myself because of you. I miss you baby and look forward to our first dance. Happy Birthday!

Love Dad

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Super Bowl 2015 Grids

Below you will find the grids for our 7th Annual Super Bowl Pool. As always, we are extremely grateful for the support that helped raise $3,000 to fight cancer.  Another $3,000 will be distributed to some lucky winners.  Consistent with prior years, we prepare the grids as random as humanly possible.  We begin by using a program to randomize the 100 names that are placed in the grid.  The upper left box is considered #1.  We then move left to right ending in the lower right hand corner with box #100.  After the names are entered into the grids, we place small pieces of paper with numbers 0 through 9 in a bowl and pull each out one by one. It is a painstakingly slow process but assures everything is by chance.  The result of the process is below. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.  Enjoy the Super Bowl and best of luck to all!!  PLEASE CLICK ON EACH GRID FOR A BETTER VIEW.  WE WILL EMAIL THESE OUT AS WELL AND WILL POST ON FACEBOOK.

Monday, January 12, 2015

7th Annual Super Bowl Pool

Wow, it has been a long time since I wrote a post here at this blog.  I really do have a lot to say but I have struggled to find the time to write.  I still have not posted my entry from Ironman CDA.....2013!!!  I have not chronicled all of my struggles to come back from a biking accident while training for Ironman #5..........a result of someone simply not checking their side mirror before opening their car door.  That transpired in September 2013 and as I sit here typing, I am far from recovered.  2014 was spent more in rehab or on rehab runs than actually training.  Truth be told, I did not complete one run or bike trainer ride that was a means to an end that included a start or finish line.  I am just trying to fight my way back. Despite trying to rehab my way around knee surgery, I ended up surgically repairing a torn meniscus in April of 2014 which led to..........as you may guess....more rehab.  My knee is not close to 100%.  If I keep on a flat straight line........I can run.  If I have to move laterally, my knee does not work.  This makes running around a corner a challenge. This makes running off a curb a challenge. This makes playing baseball with my children a challenge.  This makes playing soccer with my children a challenge.  All of this results in a frustrated me. Another aspect to all of this is that I always train to raise money to fight cancer.  I do not train for myself.  I train for others.  Taking this away from me has been painful but I am blessed to be alive and I am blessed to have enough within me to continue coaching for Team in Training where I can live vicariously through others.  A week ago I was actually blessed enough to get in a run....albeit very slow....while my daughter rode her bike beside me down the Santa Ana River Trail.  My son met me at the end of our journey and ran us in. All they have ever know, is their Dad swimming, riding or running so I think they know how important it is for me to return to action.

Cancer could care less about any of this.  Cancer is glad I am hurt or at least this is how I like to think about it.  I picture cancer with a personality and it fuels my fire to make a comeback. In the interim, raising money to fight cancer remains a critical part of my composition and, as such, we are back hosting our 7th Annual Super Bowl Pool.  Today is an appropriate day to post this news because today marks the 11th anniversary of my father losing his battle to cancer.  I made promises to him that you have all helped me live up to over the years. I think if I died tomorrow, I could look my Dad in the eye knowing I did what I could while I could.  A cure has not been found though.  Cancer still is looming and, having a wife who has survived cancer twice, I still sleep with one eye open.  So...........why not have a little fun spicing up the Super Bowl while helping get the world closer to the end of cancer.

In case you have never participated in a Super Bowl Pool..........it is very easy.  Each pool has 100 boxes that are assigned a number for each team in the Super Bowl.  For each $20 box you buy, you will be randomly assigned two numbers........one for the AFC team and one for the NFC team.  Using last year as an example, you may have been assigned a 4 for Seattle and a 0 for Denver.  If this were the case you are rooting for any score that has Seattle ending in a 4 and the Broncos ending with a zero (Seattle 4 - Denver 10, Seattle 24 - Denver 0, Seattle 14 - Denver - 30, etc, etc, etc).

The pool is a great way to spice up game day. As always, half of the pool will be distributed to the winners and half will go towards finding a cure for cancer via a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Based off the $20 per box entry fee, $1,000 will be donated to charity and $1,000 will be split as follows:
  • 1st Quarter = $125
  • Halftime = $250
  • 3rd Quarter = $125
  • Final Score = $500 
The Super Bowl will be held on February 1, 2015.  Last year we sold out 3 pools and this year we are working on our 2nd one as I write this post.  It would be amazing to match last year but we are grateful for everything whether we do or do not.

To recap the rules:
* 100 Boxes per pool
* $20 per box to play
* We randomly place you in a box on a 10x10 grid. Each box contains two numbers - one for the AFC champion and one for the NFC champion. If the numbers match the score at the end of each quarter you win! Just to be clear, we literally randomly place your name in the grid and then randomly pull numbers for the grid.  It takes a while but assures every aspect of each grid is by chance.

How to pay:
1) Email Lori Jomsky or myelf (we can DM you our email addresses if need be) how many boxes you would like. The more you buy the more chances to win and fight cancer. You can also reach out via FB or Twitter @lj3000 and @run2savelives (me)
2) Give Money directly to Chris or Lori if you happen to know us IRL
3) Mail a check payable to Lori Jomsky (so we can divide the money for charity/winners): 4211 Via Entrada, Newbury Park, CA 91320

Thank You!!!! Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Beyond my Limits: We Will Find a Cure

Below is a post to recap some thoughts tied to my participation in the 2014 Greater Los Angeles Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man and Woman of the Year campaign.  The post will also serve as this year’s annual writing to honor and remember my daughter Isabella Soleil Wilno as part of Isabella’s Day 2014.  She is no longer here but continues to guide me to great things.  She continues to impact the world without ever having taken a single step on this planet or ever having spoken a single word.  She is why I move forward when sometimes I want to stop.  She is why I take on challenges I might otherwise walk away from and as part of this recent 10 week crusade to raise funds to fight cancer, I believe she is the reason We Will Find a Cure saw great success when barriers to that success were abundant. When I accepted the nomination to be a part of the Man of the Year campaign, I told my friends all I wanted was to exit the program having the ability to look to the sky knowing my Dad and Isabella were smiling down from Heaven proud of the effort.  Well, my precious Isabella, I miss you terribly and I hope you were smiling down on me when I glanced your way.  Here we go:

May 31st….

It was just another night for most people but for me personally………..and for a group of my friends and family……it was a remarkable evening that marked the culmination of the 2014 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man and Woman of the Year campaign.  One month has passed since that night.  I have thought about this post every day since then but the words have been a struggle for me.  I have often sat down to write but I always fail to come up with anything that will make sense to anybody but me.  The struggle is not finding the words……the struggle is sifting through too many words and too many emotions. I often have this issue after key moments in my life and this was most definitely a key moment.  We Will Find a Cure raised $126,000 towards cancer research in a mere 10 week time period and on May 31, 2014, I was crowned the 2014 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year tied to the effort. Ever since I first shared my story of loss years ago, I have preached that blessings come from the worst of times.  This night was an exclamation to that statement………….one night to add clarity that my very worst days have led to some of the most remarkable moments in my life. 
Collecting my composure

I am going to do my best to add clarity to my thoughts in this post but please know this journey extends well beyond the 10 weeks allotted to the campaign so clarity may be a challenge.  We Will Find a Cure represented so many things not only to me but to everyone that joined me for the ride.  The full extent of what I learned from the experience may never come to me and the words I put here to paper may need revision for years to come.  There is no better evidence of this fact than the specific catalyst that has even motivated me to begin writing………a catalyst in the form of a movie that helped remind me of how far I have traveled and why we should never ever give up.

I currently find myself on a plane ride home from New York where I spent the last few days attending CE Week, visiting vendors and visiting customers.  After completing an hour or so of work, I decided to unwind with a little television so I turned on DIRECTV where I stumbled across the Pursuit of Happyness……..a movie featuring Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith.  I have mentioned this movie in a prior post at this blog but I rarely speak about it.  The Pursuit of Happyness reminds me of a dark time after Isabella passed away and after my Dad passed away when I was one wrong move away from my family living on the street.   I was tapped out.  I was 100’s and 100’s of thousands of dollars in debt and that had nothing to do with the mortgage payment on the house my family lived in. This debt was tied to some decisions gone awry followed by some folks defrauding me followed by the final dagger…..the real estate market crash.  I had taken a risk on some properties to try and get myself out of trouble.  My plan was to flip these properties and use the profits to reduce my debts but the real estate market would have none of that so my bad situation worsened.  Bankruptcy was never an option……..pride was part of that I guess but more importantly some friends, in an attempt to help me out, co-signed for the properties I had planned to flip.  There was no way in hell I was going to take them down with me so onward I went hoping for a solution.  We all hit dark times……this one was pitch black for me.  I constantly found myself thinking what a loser I was to put my family in harm’s way like that. 

They deserved better.  
They deserved everything.

 I often thought how much better off my family would be if a bus took me out on the way home because the life insurance would certainly help the family out more than I was able to.  No bus came though.  It didn’t come for Chris Gardner either. That is who the movie The Pursuit of Happyness is based on. He was at rock bottom fighting to keep his family afloat……..sleeping in subway stations……..sleeping in hostels.  He scraped and he clawed and he shoved obstacles out of the way and ultimately won a job at Dean Whitter that marked the light at the end of a very long tunnel.  May 31st was my job at Dean Whitter.  It was proof you can come back.  It was proof that if you are here on this planet still breathing, your time is not done and there is more for you to accomplish.  I never ended up living in a box.  I worked hard.  I pushed forward. I fought back…..and on May 31, 2014, I was crowned the 2014 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man of the Year.  It wasn’t the trophy or the title that meant anything to me.  What meant something was the 10 year ride that led to the 10 week ride that led to the trophy.  What mattered was the life I led to come back from almost living on the street and how people responded. During that 10 year period, I opened up about my story.  I openly communicated about the loss of my Dad and every year I wrote about my daughter Isabella and how her loss has forever changed me.  Even this blog is the result of that communication as I started it in response to cancer deciding one battle with my wife wasn’t enough.  Some people probably didn’t want to hear about my story but for others…….it touched their lives.  My losses helped my life cross paths with many people I otherwise would never have met……truly amazing people that are my friends in real life and my virtual friends connected through social media (who are hopefully my friends in real life soon J).  My losses helped teach me I have the ability to make a difference in this world and in the lives of others which ultimately led to me being a coach for Team in Training, the endurance sports fundraising arm of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  At Team in Training, I was not only introduced to a life of endurance sports but blessed with this coaching opportunity and the chance to share my thoughts on life and what I believe we, as individuals, are all capable of.  I have the honor of showing people that the concept of ‘impossible’ is a myth.  This title of Man of the Year is the culmination of all of that……proof that what I did was meaningful because, honestly, everyone that stood by my side as part of We Will Find a Cure are people in my life because of my losses (my wife and mother excluded).  They are the blessings from the dark times.  They are the proof that people were listening to me and that I was making an impact.

At a high level, this was my journey and honestly, until turning on DIRECTV at 30,000 feet, I didn’t even realize it.  The significance just sat in the back of my mind waiting for Will Smith to remind me of where I had come from.  It probably isn’t how anybody expected this post to open….me included….. but I think it is an important message.  I hope wherever you find yourself in life while reading this post is full of light and joy.  If, however, you find yourself in a place of struggle………..know there are better times ahead.  Dig in.  Learn all you can and fight your way forward.  The struggles you have today can take you to amazing places and lead you to a life you never imagined.  Like I said above, if you are still breathing…….your time here is not finished and your purpose is not fulfilled. There are things to get done and impacts to create so go make it happen.

The message above represents my life’s journey……where I came from and where things landed.  The specifics of this campaign, however, all tied to a hatred of cancer and how friends and family came together to try and find a cure.  There is no way I could write about this campaign in novel form so from here on out you get random bullet points as thoughts invade my mind.  Along the way I hope to recognize the folks that made all of this possible for, without them, this post does not exist.  In case you made it to this point having no idea what I am writing about, I will begin with a quick synopsis.

My name mentioned in USA Today
Early in March of 2014, I accepted a nomination to participate in a 10 week campaign hosted by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).  I was nominated by Sarah Weston Clark….a friend I met through Team in Training, another fundraising arm of LLS where I have dedicated a lot of time to fighting cancer. Up to this point, Team in Training was how I honored the promise I made to my Dad to fight back against the disease that took him, the promise I made to my wife to do the same and the promise I made to my little angel in Heaven, Isabella………to lead a life that makes her proud.  I had fulfilled these promises as an endurance athlete having raised approximately $135,000 over the course of 12 different events from half marathon to Ironman distance triathlon.  I also fulfilled these promises as a coach for Team in Training where I had the blessing to change lives and teach people what they are capable of accomplishing……..which, for the record, is ANYTHING!

In my eyes, I accepted this nomination late in the game.  The 10 week campaign began on March 22nd.  This did not allow a lot of time for planning out a path to success nor did it allow a lot of time to define what success would mean.  Because of this…….accepting the nomination was quite a challenge for me.  The fear of failure was overwhelming which, although it may sound strange, is exactly why I accepted the nomination.  The path was unclear but I always share a quote with newcomers to Team in Training from Martin Luther King that reads “Faith is taking the first step even when you do not see the whole staircase”.  Staring at fear and shoving it aside is also what I say I love about endurance sports.  How could I teach these principles and not act upon them?  The answer is that I couldn’t so into the fire I leapt with some remarkable support from friends and family.  I will go into much more detail on this but please know this campaign is NOT successful if I am walking alone on this journey.

The end result…………in the 10 weeks from March 22 – May 31, 2014, the campaign titled We Will Find a Cure raised over $126,000 towards ridding the world of cancer.  That is a lot of money in a short period of time and there is great personal significance to the amount which I will talk about a little later in this post.  One hundred twenty six thousand dollars was more than any other male participant in the 2014 campaign so on May 31st I was crowned the 2014 LLS Man of the Year.  My name is attached to the honor but this is without question a Team of the Year award because, as I state above, none of this happens without an army of amazing people standing by my side. Now to the miscellaneous thoughts as they come to me:

  •  I have always lived by the principle that if you speak and act from the heart, good things will happen.  This is certainly true 100% of the time and putting yourself out there certainly has some risk but the rewards can be remarkable.  Proof of this concept lies in the 2014 LLS Woman of the Year for Greater Los Angeles, Samara Wolpe.  If you think my $126,000 is a great achievement, you will fall over when I tell you she raised over $350,000.  This is not only significant to Greater LA.  This is not only significant to 2014.  This is the greatest sum of money ever raised by anyone…..anywhere….in a Man/Woman of the Year campaign. To my credit, I had guessed Samara would raise $400,000 because I know her Mom and Dad and they are great cancer fighters with a strong personal connection to the cause and the willingness to use their amazing connections to better the world.  
  • How does Samara prove out my theory on speaking from the heart?  The answer lies in Ellie Wolpe.  Ellie Wolpe is Samara’s Mom.  Years ago, I was speaking at a library in West Hollywood and Ellie happened to be in the audience as I shared my story of loss and why Team in Training was so important to me….and why I felt it could change the life of everyone listening to me if they had the courage to join.  Ellie was touched by my speech and took the leap of faith to register for Team in Training as part of the marathon program I would be leading that summer.  Not only did Ellie join but she raised over $100,000 for that single season…..still a record for any team I have coached.  From there, Ellie went on to do even more amazing things for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society which ultimately led to Samara being a part of the 2014 MWOY campaign.  Be it right or wrong, I like to consider myself a part of Samara’s success story for, if not for that speech in West Hollywood years ago, she might never have found herself on the doorstep of LLS.  Samara, Ellie and David Wolpe are a part of my legacy and are 3 amazing blessings that came out of the darkness that is my story
    All Candidates
  • So far I have talked about the Man of the Year and the Woman of the Year but it is extremely important to mention that all candidates as part of this campaign raised an aggregate total of over $1.1 million.  I always said that this campaign was not about winning……it was different things on a personal level to every participant but the spirit behind it all was about finding a cure for cancer.  If I had come in second or third or last and someone else raised $1m, how could I be unhappy with that result.  The cure is what matters and as a group, all of the 2014 candidates did an amazing job getting us closer to the day when the end of cancer hits the news.  I am proud to have been a small part of the big picture and I am proud of everyone that had the courage to join the Man and Woman of the Year campaign and make a difference.
  • It will be impossible to thank everyone that had a hand in this venture but I damn sure am going to try.  This being said, I am certain to make a mistake and miss someone so I apologize in advance to anyone I fail to mention. I also vow to amend this post to right my wrong :) 
    Crea and I....she needs that giant margarita to tolerate me :)
  • My wife Crea Wilno gets the first thank you.  This campaign did not come at a time ideal for my family.  I was dealing with crazy work stress and work hours coupled with buying a new house, trying to sell an old house and all the stress that accompanies 2 mortgage payments. This campaign was a lot to take on and Crea allowed me the freedom to follow my heart. She has always done this for me.  Without her standing by my side and allowing me the time to coach and train I would have accomplished literally nothing in the world of cancer fighting. I am truly grateful to have Crea as my wife and friend and motivating force.  I am also extremely thankful she had the strength and courage to stare cancer in the face two times……coming out the victor on both occasions…..for without her our family would be lost. Another reason to thank my wife is for all of the work she put into the campaign.  She stuffed hundreds of envelopes........like 1,000 which is no joke.......so that all of my fundraising letters made it out on time.....she monitored our square page and mailed out any t-shirts that were purchased and she handled mailing all of the virtual #BeatCancer 5K Bibs and medals.
  • Upon accepting the nomination to join the Man of the Year campaign, I immediately reached out to friends and family to see who would be willing to jump into this madness and stand by my side for 10 weeks.  I had no plan of attack so I reached out expressing how important this journey was to me and the response was overwhelming.  I built a team of folks that were willing to go well beyond the call of duty and help me plan this attack.  Lori Jomsky was my very first call.  She has always had my back when I embark upon these crazy journeys and never challenges the high expectations I place upon myself…..she just asks how she can help make it happen.  Other folks that stepped up either initially or over the course of the journey were Javier Rivera, Sarah Clark, Niesja Sharp, Charlene Levy, Lillah McCarthy, Leah Beck, Candice Yee, Allison Ewart, Heather Bilhorn, Jennifer Raymond, Jennifer Giannini, Paul Wintner, Alison Chavez, Carrie Smith, Sarah Harris, Leda Gonzalez, Aubrey Walton, Laura Bittner, Kelley Puckett, Eric Orivieto, Molly Chance, my Mom....Marjorie Wilno and the LLS Club at Newbury Park High School led by Sydney Clark and Jordan Jomsky.  Truthfully, not everyone could step up and help as they initially intended to do but I mention everyone here because the desire to help meant so much out of the gate.  Knowing people were supportive of my decision provided some level of comfort that we were going to be successful.
  • Besides the group of folks mentioned above, there was another group of individuals that stepped up to help We Will Find a Cure in a different way.  The core group of individuals planning We Will Find a Cure determined one of the ways we would raise money as part of this campaign was to build an army of folks sending out their own personal letters and emails.  It really ties back to the name we decided to call our campaign……WE WILL FIND A CURE. My story is what led me to the doorstep of this campaign but everybody has their own personal reason for wanting to end cancer.  This campaign was not about me……it was about all of our sad stories and the need to end them.  On this note, we sent out emails asking if folks would be willing to individually fundraise in support of We Will Find a Cure.  We originally put a budget of $27,000 on this aspect of the campaign but little did we know the army that would enlist.  More than 25 people stepped up to participate and raised a total of over $45,000.  Some of these folks were performing double duty as they were also on the team of people mentioned above helping plan out the 10 week road to success. Even more remarkable….some folks that joined me in battle didn’t even know who I was……well maybe they had heard of me because of the money I had raised as part of Team in Training but we had never met face to face.  That is a very powerful statement about the good people that exist in this world coupled with the hatred of cancer that exists in this world.  I am so grateful to this list #BeatCancer heroes….whether you raised $10 or $10,000: Charlene Levy, Jacqueline Haberfeld, Marjorie Wilno, Lori Jomsky, Aubrey Walton, Crea Wilno, Jennifer Raymond, Jennifer Giannini, Paul Wintner, DeeDee Urquhart, Jeanne Sarmiento, Marian Manzer, Beckie Burns, Krystle Zhang, Gilda DeLaCruz, Jenny Lewis, Niesja Sharp, Carlos Pineda, Mike Cimmarrusti, Peter Woelflein, Rachael Burnson, Eric Orvieto, Tracy Sheridan, Laura Bittner, Ronel Wright, Allison Ewart, Catherine Knight, Anna Belentsova, Sabine Hermann and Aracy Sherrill.
  • A quick thought on the list above.  Asking people to raise money on behalf of this campaign was the most challenging ask of all for me.  I am not sure why but this request seemed beyond reasonable.  Asking time and effort from people was one thing but asking people to tap into their friends and family on behalf of a venture I got myself into did not feel right.  I mention at the top of this post that there are many things I garnered from the Man of the Year experience.  One of those things I garnered was to trust, delegate and let go.  In my career, delegation has never been my strong suit. As it pertains to this aspect of our campaign, delegation and trust were the only way this was going to see success because I did not have it within me to make this request of people.  As such, my friends reached out to their friends and shared my story.  That led to the list above of incredible people that responded to make a difference.  Then Sarah Clark…..the same Sarah Clark that nominated me for this campaign……stepped up to lead the team week by week.  She would send weekly updates and fundraising ideas.  She worked to make sure anyone that wanted to help had the tools to help.  She made sure they were able to set up their fundraising page and she answered all of their questions.  I chimed in occasionally to Sarah’s emails to the team and I would sometimes send my own emails……especially when the finish line looked incredibly far away…..but Sarah and this group of #beatcancer heroes did this on their own.
  • Adaptation. Another key lesson derived from We Will Find a Cure was the ability to adapt.  A few weeks prior to the start of the campaign, we mapped out our path to goal.  At a high level it looked like this:

o   Car sponsorship
o   Corporate sponsorship: we had an inside scoop we could secure a significant donation from a local company one of our team members worked for.
o   My personal letters and emails
o   Team personal letters and emails
o   Big event: at this point it was a concert or a nice sit down dinner
o   Donation tins
o   Raffle
o   T-shirts
o   Drag Queen Bingo x 2
o   Silent Auction Items/Charity Buzz
o   It is important to note our plan was NOT to participate in incentives offered by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. As an example, we could secure volunteers for the Grand Finale and the value of the donated services would get added to our fundraising total (i.e. you could secure an event photographer to volunteer their services). There were also weekly challenges.  Our belief at the time was these incentives distract us from our main fundraising efforts…..this would prove completely false.

While we did act on many of the ideas above, We Will Find A Cure certainly arrived at the finish line having taken a different route than expected.  Major car companies immediately turned us down. We had prepared a presentation for BMW, as an example, and knew someone that could make sure our presentation was made it to review but ultimately we did not secure a car (please note this is NOT a knock on BMW…..they are a very charitable organization).  This was our $25-50,000 idea thrown out the window.  Our inside lead on the local corporate sponsorship also fell through tied to a technicality whereby the donation could not be made to an individual. We tried to make the point that this was a group effort despite my name being attached to the donation but it did not work.  This was our $15-25,000 idea so now, before we even started we were seeing more failure than success.  What remained on our list was not enough to raise substantial dollars so my fear of failure was starting to come into focus.  $50,000 was the minimum amount needed in order for me to feel good about our effort .  Once clearing $50,000 I vowed I would take a quick sigh of relief but I should have known me better….I am really not the kind of guy that is ever content.  We were at $50,000 at approximately the 5 week mark.  You might think $50K at the half way point was a good thing but I felt like our team was tapped out.  All of our big money making ideas were behind us….the 5 weeks that lied ahead were an empty slate with few ideas to drive donations.  This was unfortunate because my definition of success began to gain clarity and the total that came into focus was $100,000.
  • A quick pause to explain the significance of $100,000 (I told you this was going to be a group of random thoughts).  For each $50,000 you get to attach a name to a research grant.  At $50,000 my father would be the first name attached to the grant.  This was significant in that he would literally be a part of fighting back against the disease that took his life.  At the second $50,000 raised ($100,000 total) my daughter Isabella’s name would be attached to the research grant.  While it is not cancer that took our daughter, she has been a big part of the fight over these years.  We lost her while my Dad was fighting cancer and it is her passing that led to the cancer diagnosis in my wife.  She has been my motivation on a daily basis and, honestly, she has served as motivation to so many others over the years.  It just felt appropriate to have my precious angel attached to something tangible……proof that anybody can make a difference.  I will get repetitive below regarding this but I cannot emphasize enough how much this $100K total drove me down the stretch.  It kept me up at night.  I was an emotional train wreck when  $100,000 looked so far out of reach. I shared this fear with folks on the campaign and at LLS and tears very often invaded the conversation.  The amazing part is that everyone around me accepted this goal as their own too.  Isabella was my responsibility.....my loss......my promise to keep but literally everyone took it upon themselves to make sure we did everything in our power to get Isabella's name on the grant.  My goal became everyone's goal and it is what we drove to relentlessly.  I remember clearly the reaction when I was announced the winner on May 31st....tears streaming down the faces of my teammates. This meant as much to them as me and I cannot describe to you how much that means to me....that people would give so much of themselves to help me accomplish this task.
  • Another quick pause.  At $150,000 Crea, my wife, would have her name attached to a grant.  In the end we were only $24,000 away from making that happen so, if I have, any regrets it is not knowing how close we could come.  We were a long way from $100,000 with a short period of time to go but I wish I had the vision and faith to see this would all come through so that I might have thought of a way to get that last $50,000. My wife does not mind.  She is not upset at all. She is just my hero and I wish I had got it done for her.
  • When I accepted my nomination to participate in this campaign, I was told that all successful campaigns need a good website and a good video speaking to the personal connection.  This was fantastic except I did not know how to build a website nor do I possess the skill set to make a great video……I did make a video for Isabella’s Day 2013 which was meaningful to me but certainly no masterpiece.  As such, I was yet again dependent on others and asking for help.  Help for the website came from Leah Beck who was also on the team helping to map out this campaign.  She jumped in and was the master behind www.wewillfindacure.com.  Leah has a job and a life but she managed to set aside the time so that this campaign had a chance for success.  The solution for the video did not come as easy.  I reached out for help but the folks I knew could help were all too busy.  Just when all seemed lost a few people stepped up to save the day.  Pai Wei was one of the first.  He is a big proponent of Team in Training and the master behind some incredible footage from Team in Training Triathlon seasons.  He agreed to meet me on the streets where both of us have trained countless hours to get some footage that might help in the overall production of the video. He filmed me running and biking and took some creative shots which were quite remarkable.  None of this footage made it into the final cut but I am so grateful to Pai and I have some footage that I am sure will get used in my lifetime.  The other person to step up was Nazie Tashakorian, a former participant on one of the teams I coached and I have to say this was unexpected…which is why it is so amazing.  Nazie was part of the Disney Half Marathon crew in Fall 2013 and some family health issues led to her not being able to complete the race.  Despite that disappointment, Nazie reached out to her husband Eddie and her brother in law, Dani of Dani Evocophotography and they agreed to shoot the footage and produce the video.  The weight lifted off of my shoulders when these guys stepped up to help was enormous.  I met Eddie and Dani in Hollywood to share my story.  I also sent them articles written about me as well as letters I had written and links to other posts at this website.  They turned all of that information into interview type questions which they asked me on camera.  The end result is the video you see at the We Will Find a Cure website.  The end result is that video helped secure critical donations so these guys are a big part of our success.
Okay, I am going to try and wrap this up by walking everyone through some of the key moments/items on the path to raising $126,000.  I have already stated this but really need to do so again……there is no way I can recognize every single person that had an impact on this campaign.  I am already worried about being too detailed and having this post turn into a 500 page novel.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE know that I am grateful for everything whether you name has made this post or not. Here are some of the ways we achieved success:

  • My letter writing and email campaign proved more successful than I anticipated.  I had budgeted $5,000 for my efforts but went well beyond raising more than $17,000. I guess I underestimated my friends but that was only because so many of them were either fundraising for themselves and/or were helping on my team in other ways.
  • As discussed above, the team of individuals fundraising on my behalf did a remarkable job exceeding expectations.  I am not going to individually name persons and amounts because I am grateful to everyone regardless of how much they raised.  For the record, though, we have multiple people raise more than $5,000 and one person that raised greater than $11,000.
  • On the opening night of the 10 week campaign we invited some friends to Karaoke to kick off the fun.  It was an intimate group but raised over $1,000 because folks on my team really worked the bar crowd to sell 50-50 raffle tickets.  One thousand dollars at the start of the campaign may not seem like a lot but it set a remarkable tone that we could be successful and that people were in the fight with me.  Much thanks to Leah Beck for helping get us started on the right track and the mad crew that sold all of the raffle tickets.....I remember Allison Ewart, Joseph Clark and Charlene Levy but I am sure there were more!
You know you want one
  • T-shirt sales produced a few thousand dollars.  Thanks to American Apparel for giving us a great deal on the shirts and to Lorraine Shea for helping secure the screen printing for free.  This being said, we were over zealous with the buy so there are still plenty of shirts if you would like one J.  Our logo is on the front and #BeatCancer is on the back.  Click HERE for our store.
  • While not really tied to reaching $126,000, early in the campaign I joined other participants to be recognized on the field at Dodger’s Stadium. It was definitely a cool moment because my family was there to witness it.  My children are young at 6 and 9 years old but I hope some of what they witnessed during this 10 week campaign sticks with them.  I hope they know their Dad once did something cool and accomplished some great things and more importantly I hope they carry this forward into their own lives.
    I made the big screen
My Mom is the one on the left :)
  • My Mom is worthy of a separate post but I will mention her here because she was a big contributor to the success of this campaign.  Why I want to mention her is, of course, partly due to this but more importantly I want to mention my Mom because of the courage she demonstrated to join the effort and the amazing progress she made over the course of the 10 week journey.  I have always been amazingly close to my Mom.  She is the most giving person I know……the kind of Mom even your friends love to hang around when growing up.  She has literally never placed herself first on any occasion as she is always thinking of the other person. My story involves the loss of my Dad.  Her story involves the loss of her husband…..the love of her life……her soul mate.  My Dad passed away mere days before my parents would have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.  I actually think the only reason my Dad held on as long as he did was because of my Mom……….he needed to know she would be okay after he passed.  The day before my Dad passed away, he never woke up from a deep and comfortable sleep.  When I said goodnight that night, I felt like I was saying goodbye. I whispered to my Dad that it was okay to let go……that I would take care of Mom and that we would miss him but be okay and see him on the other side.  A few hours later he let go.  I do not think my Mom has ever been the same since my father passed away.  Time has healed her wounds but she will never be at 100% because a part of her left when he left.  Joining We Will Find a Cure required my Mom to stare some bad memories in the face.  She had to relive some tough times…..times she tried to remove from her memory.  I knew all of this and, truth be told, it is probably one of the reasons I accepted my nomination.  I really believe my Mom needed to face all of this.  She needed to know what kicking cancer in the face felt like.  Beyond having to stare some dark times in the face, my Mom has never really had to ask anybody for help.  Fundraising scared my Mom beyond belief, which is another reason I felt this was important for her.  You are never too old to learn to overcome obstacles so my Mom accepted the challenge.  Through tears, she wrote her fundraising letters and she humbled herself to ask for money. Over the course of the 10 weeks I saw a confidence level grow in my Mom.  She started walking business to business and sharing her story and asking for donations from complete strangers.  She, along with the help of my Aunt Judy, planned a local event where they cooked food and sold beer and raised some more money.  In the end, my Mom raised nearly $7,000 for this campaign on a goal she gave herself of $500-1,000. Ultimately she was there in the room when I was crowned the Man of the Year and I know, like me, my Dad was damn proud of all she accomplished.
  • I already mentioned her but I would be remiss if I did not mention Lori Jomsky again. She
    Lori and I
    stood right by my side start to finish during this campaign.  We both have 60-70 hour a week jobs so the time to work on this campaign came at odd hours and she was always there when I needed her.  She was a big part of everything I mention in this post and a big part of the reason we won.  As were all of the people on the WWFAC team, Lori was vested in the success.  When we won, she cried and still cries to this day when talking about the campaign.  I could list her name in every line items discussed in this post because she was literally involved in every single aspect.
  • I mentioned above that our plan for WWFAC was NOT to participate in weekly challenges and incentives.  We were way off on that one.  I do not know the exact total but we raised between $6-7,000 on incentives.  As an example, we were able to get Teresa Paczkowski of Elena Trevino Designs to donate the design work for the Finale Program which earned us money towards our campaign equal to the value of that work.  I have to call out Teresa a second and third time as well because she put in a lot of time designing the WWFAC logo used for our campaign as well as the #BeatCancer logo we utilized on our t-shirts.  She donated her personal time without ever having met me.  She jumped in to help at the request of a friend and hearing our story.  There truly are amazing people in this world.  I know the news is full of quite the opposite but all around us are remarkable human beings that step up to do heroic things.  Teresa is one of those people.  Besides the incentive for the program design, we were able to sell some ad space in the Finale program and we won almost every weekly challenge because our team was full of rock stars that stepped up when I needed help.
  • Above I discussed that at the 5 week mark we were about half way to the $100,000 mark with no real path to make up the gap.  All that we really had left that could produce significant dollars was our big event……what started as a dinner or concert
    Pre Run Registration
    landed on the #BeatCancer Bottomless 5K.  In case you are wondering…..no, it was not a nude run or we might have raised $200,000…..the ‘bottomless’ represented an alliance with a local restaurant, Cabo Cantina.  We built into the registration fee a bottomless margarita or Bloody Mary after the race.  Our best-case scenario for the race was $10,000 and, out of the gate, things were not looking good.  Folks were very slow to sign up which was understandable but unfortunate.  We had a great medal to offer but we were not an official timed race…….just an informal fun run which ruled out the hard core runners that may come join us.
    Pre Run Mini Speech
      Despite the slow start, we pushed forward and told the world about our race.  We made contact with Bart Yasso who tweeted about our race……which was very cool for us.  Chris Schauble of KTLA also helped spread the word, which was greatly appreciated.  On a side note, years ago, Chris also helped get my story on the evening news when I pulled a stunt to sell my bad karma on Ebay…..someone would pay me to root for the other team for the Super Bowl when Green Bay played the Steelers.  Anyway, folks started to sign up and what was really helping our cause is that when people registered at our site, they were als
    Great moment...Me with Alison and her Mom Beth
    o making donations and buying t-shirts. Along the way, we added a virtual option for folks that could not make the race or were from out of state or out of country.  Ultimately 220 people registered, which, combined with donations, and t-shirt sales brought in over $20,000.  So many people put in so much work to make this day a success.  I could not possibly name all of them but I can tell you our success was as important to them as me.  I remember after giving a little pre-race send off speech and sending off runners with an air horn, I turned to see my friend Charlene Levy crying as everyone headed down the street.  Everyone was vested in We Will Find a Cure……….my story got us off the ground but ‘We’ were responsible for the success. There were a few other highlights from the day I want to mention.  One was having Alison Chavez come to our race.  Alison is a veteran Team in Training peep…..a crazy endurance athlete and someone who had cancer knock on her door. She had been battling breast cancer for a while but gathered the strength to come complete 3.1 miles as part of our event and she will never know how grateful I am for her participation (even if she is reading this post!). Tobey Jomsky, Lori Jomsky’s son, also gets a shout out.  Tobey had suffered an unfortunate incident recently, which resulted in a broken back.  Despite all of the pain from a recent surgery, Tobey really wanted to be a part of our big day so he came to the run and handed out every medal to every finisher on this day. It really made a special day for me even more incredible.  To Tobey, I really hope you know that a full life lies in front of you.  A broken back is a temporary setback in what will be a life full of incredible memories and a life that I am sure will have great impact on many others.
    Tobey waiting for the first runners
  • Much thanks to Javier Rivera and Audrey Duffy for their relentless search for an available date for Drag Queen Bingo. We had budgeted money for this function but every date during our 10 week campaign had been taken so Javier kept following up looking for cancellations and late in the game one came through.  Drag Queen bingo is a fundraising staple for everyone at LLS but
    The Bingo Crew
    in 10 years I had never been.  I had heard of the madness and Roxy but had yet to experience it for myself.  Because of the late notice, the team had to make a mad push to come up with giveaway prizes and items for raffle and, in the end, we were able to raise a few thousand dollars. As I think back, it was one of the ways we were able to close the gap down the stretch.

  • We were able to raise over $5,000 on Charity Buzz thanks to some hard work by Lillah McCarthy.  Part of that hard work was securing items worthy of a silent auction and part of the work was simply dealing with Lori Jomsky and I!  In the end, Lillah was able to secure some incredible meet and greet celebrity experiences with Conan and Eric Dane.  She also secured tickets to the AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards along with passes to the after party for the show.  Besides these items we also were able to secure a back stage meet and greet with Flo Rida thanks to David Elmekies who didn’t even know me when the WWFAC campaign began.  He heard my story and simply asked how he could help us reach our goal.  Once again, the world is full of remarkable people making a difference.
Huge thanks to Franco Bicycles!!
  • The very last big financial push came on the night of May 31st which was the Grand Finale for the Man and Woman of the Year campaign.  We had not planned on participating in the silent auction aspect of this evening or the live auction which were for items having a value greater than $5,000.  In the spirit of adapting along the way…….we participated in both and I have to give great thanks to Franco bicycles and to Jules Jomsky for introducing Franco to WWFAC.  He set in motion the events that led to Franco donating a remarkable Carbon Fiber time trial bicycle.  This thing was decked out and at auction raised over $3,000 towards our campaign.  If you are out looking for a bike, please check them out at www.francobicycles.com.  They have a remarkable product with remarkable service and they are good people.  Beyond Franco, there is an army to thank.  Kelley Puckett scored amazing Dodger tickets, Sarah Clark for dressing up every silent auction item we had and making it look presentable, EATZ LA and everyone that hustled Los Angeles to secure gift certificates from restaurants and hotels.
Gilda showing off a jeans shirt purse
  • Yard Sale.....almost forgot that one.  This was another very late event that Leah Beck helped lead and and army stepped in.  We were able to raise over $1,000 with a week to go because of everyone's hustle.  There were also a lot of good times had that morning and I must note that this was the very first yard sale of my entire life.....only took 47 years.  Thanks Leah, Michelle, Gilda, Candice, Leda, Lillah, Laura, Ron, Erin, Molly, Allison, Crea, Lori and all of our kids for teaching me how to let go of your possessions, have a good time, accept pennies on the dollar and have those pennies add up to a lot of money.
I could go on to talk about so many other things but this post is already getting incredibly long.  Down the stretch, I am not quite sure how we closed the gap to $100,000 let alone exceeded it by $26,000.  I remember reaching out to everyone I could think of and humbling myself to say I really needed help.  The thought of not getting to $100,000 brought me to tears on occasion so I had to push forward.  In my eyes, missing the $100,000 mark meant failing Isabella and, while I know she wouldn’t feel that way, I had to arrive at the finish line knowing I tried everything I could to reach that total.  In the end, people responded.  Ron Harvey of Punk Rock Racing donated profits from t-shirt sales to help close the gap. Friends not even on the team asked their friends to support the cause and $500 checks would arrive.  Friends like Niesja Sharp helped us get creative when ideas were running thin.  In the end, the ‘We’ in We Will Find a Cure is how this campaign was successful and why this campaign was crowned the victor.  I have not come close to mentioning everyone in this post.  I simply could never get that done so to those not mentioned by name, please know I am forever in your debt and grateful beyond belief.  There are people that donated big amounts and raised insane amounts of money not mentioned because I do not want the folks that gave $10 to feel any less appreciated.  I hope you all understand but, if you do not, email me and I will amend this post to make sure you are included.

Well, it took a while but I made it to the end of this post.  I wish I could tell you all of this led to a cure but as I sit and write the final sentences of this post, cancer lives on.  We still have work to do as friends and family of all of us are currently fighting for their lives.  We are working to determine the next steps for We Will Find a Cure because we believe it can continue to make a difference.  If you would like to accompany us wherever the future may take us, please like our Facebookpage.  Either way, thank you for your time in reading this and thank you for all of the support over the years.  I hope you have found some inspiration from this story and/or from my story and if so, I hope you use that inspiration to go make an impact on the world.  Cheers.

WWFAC set up pre concert. Design by Jennifer Raymond

Group shot at the Finale

Accepting the award!

Top two men in the house!

All Male Candidates

Struggling to talk through tears

Top two men and women

Shay and Thalia selling cookies at the Yard Sale

Crea fought Gilda for the purse!

Post race drinks!

Me and rock star Tobey at the 5K

Me and him....her...Roxy! Bingo!

#BeatCancer Medal!

Someone is taking advantage of the bottomless aspect of the run