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September 22, 2017
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Local team sets goal of $100,000 for Leukemia and Lymphoma

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
August 4, 2017

On August 6, Team John Henry, a Team in Training (TNT) for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, will be hosting the first of two fundraisers to help reach their goal of raising $100,000 for a research grant to find a cure, in honor of John Henry’s memory. The “Flapjacks for LLS” event will take place at Applebee’s in Rohnert Park and all proceeds from the breakfast will go to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

In 2008 local community members, family and friends of John Henry began to get involved with Team in Training, a year after he was diagnosed with a stage 3 diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, an aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. John was passionate about finding a cure, especially for the children suffering from this horrible disease. After he succumbed to the cancer in 2015 after years of chemotherapy and treatments, Team John Henry was formed due to his wish for the group to carry on the battle for a cure in his memory. 

Besides finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, funding also goes to research for patient support services and treatments that can extend a person’s life with these diseases, and much of the research benefits other types of cancers as well. Henry himself was able to receive Rituxin as part of his treatment, a monoclonal antibody, made possible through partial funding by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  The targeted drug initially triggered a remission after five treatments.

“John and his wife had eight years together after his diagnosis because of medication the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society had researched and was funding,” says Justin Thompson, Rohnert Park Public Safety Officer and coach of Team John Henry who got involved in the organization through his connection of losing his mother to cancer at the age of nine. “He benefited directly from the funding.”

The team has the specific goal of raising $100,000 this year because LLS will name a research grant in honor of a person if their group raises this amount. The group started this season’s fundraising in June and is already at 49%. While most of Team in Training’s fundraising efforts come from endurance athletic events such as marathons, triathlons, and cycling, hiking, and climbing sports, Team John Henry is also supplementing their fundraising efforts through other events in which anyone can participate.

The flapjack breakfast on Sunday (from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.) offers participants flapjacks, eggs, sausage, coffee, and juice – all for $10. Tickets for the event can be purchased by visiting the group’s Facebook page, Team John Henry TNT or by emailing Justin at justinthompson2315@gmail.com. A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door as well.

In addition, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is hosting a Wonder Bread 5 benefit concert at Legends in Santa Rosa on August 13. The event will feature live music, a nacho bar, silent auction, and raffle. For more information or to purchase tickets, search for Wonder Bread 5 at Legends on Facebook, through Team John Henry’s Facebook page, or call 707-318-4534.

“We’re selling tickets to both events now, but we’re also looking for corporate donors to help Team John Henry,” says Thompson.

The team of 26 will be participating in a few endurance events in the near future as well, including the San Francisco Giant Race on August 27. Later in the season, others on the team will be participating in the Portland Half Marathon and the Marine Corps Full marathon in Virginia. The group hopes to reach their $100,000 fundraising goal before the Giant race so that John Henry can be publicly recognized at the “inspiration dinner” the night before the event.

The group has been training together every week to prepare themselves for these endurance runs.

“Every Saturday we do a big, long team run,” says Thompson. “Before we start we have a mission moment where we share stories of someone who is or was going through leukemia and lymphoma. It helps remind me of what’s important in life.”

As coach, Thompson is inspired and humbled by the many different people that come together and participate in these events and by the huge amount of effort they put in to raise money for the cause. The Giant race, for example, requires $1,200 of minimum fundraising per participant. 

“These guys are the best,” says Thompson. “Some do it for personal and health reasons, but also to fundraise. To train for an endurance event, and fundraise – that’s an elite athlete.”