Boot Camp for Cancer brings all walks of life together for novel fund raisingby Javier Morales on Jan. 10, 2012, under Sports
LAS VEGAS — Seconds before I was to start the first quarter-mile leg of a relay, one of my Boot Camp for Cancer teammates saw my Arizona baseball cap and asked incredulously, “Is that a U of A cap?”
The race started before I could say, “Yes”. I turned toward the course, looked back quick enough to nod yes, and darted away as quick as I could. I must have started slow because I could still hear her say, “I went to ASU.”
That only added more fuel to my desire to start our relay strong last Saturday morning at the Las Vegas Athletic Club. At that moment, I was not only participating in the spirit of my father Hector A. Morales Jr., who passed away in March 2010 away after a decade-long bout with lymphoma. I had to represent the UA the best I could with a Sun Devil looking on, observing how I would start our relay.
Although in the best shape of my life — thanks mostly to a regular routine of cardiovascular and muscle training — I am by no means a runner. I kept up as best I could, but two female runners, who obviously ran daily as part of their fitness regimen, passed me by before we touched hands with the next runner in the relay. My ego was not totally bruised — two other runners didn’t make it to the relay point until after I finished.
More importantly, the woman who was an ASU alum on our team gave me a high-five after I completed my run as if I set a world record. When it comes to raising money for a worthy cause that impacts our society, allegiances such as those for UA and ASU rightfully take a back seat. Throughout the two-hour event, nobody was separated by school allegiances, religion, political beliefs, or even if we liked Tim Tebow or not.
The day was all about giving and it went beyond donating the money Boot Camp for Cancer needs. We gave our heart and sweat and pushed ourselves physically — some beyond their limits as they lost their breakfast — to show how far we would go to help those are afflicted by cancer.
The mastermind behind the Boot Camp for Cancer is Trish Georges, a paramedic from Las Vegas who is a breast cancer survivor. She along with fitness trainer Angela Farrar of Las Vegas started the event last year to help raise funds for cancer patients in need. Their charity has a novel approach. The approximately $10,000 they have raised in two years goes toward helping cancer patients make ends meet financially. They need this aid because they are unable to work and draw income while being treated.
“Our goal isn’t to find a cure for cancer or save the world,” Georges explains on the Boot Camp for Cancer Web site (BootCampforCancer.com). “We simply want to put food in someone’s fridge, fill medications, provide daily essentials and offer some financial relief to make your fight just a little easier!”
Georges started the event Saturday by talking about her story. After her doctor discovered a tumor the size of a golf ball in her breast in 2009, she underwent treatment after moving out of her four-bedroom house in Las Vegas. She moved in with a friend in California, who did not charge her rent to help alleviate the burden of medical fees owed that insurance does not cover.
It was difficult to keep a dry eye as she explained the difficulties placed on her life because of cancer and how she has persevered. Countless others share a similar burden.
“Trish receives e-mails on a regular basis from friends and friends of friends asking for guidance, financial assistance, and sometimes just a kind word,” according to the Boot Camp for Cancer Web site.
Tucson will stage an event called Beat Cancer Boot Camp, which will be held March 17 at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park. The theme of this charity is different. Its mission is to help survivors stay active during cancer treatment and beyond.
“Studies show that regular exercise can help relieve stress, anxiety, and combat some of the side effects common to cancer treatment such as nausea and fatigue,” its Web site states.
The Beat Cancer Boot Camp will hold an Anniversary Event today at 5:30 p.m. at Brandi Fenton Park. Former University of Arizona football player Jay Dobyns, a federal undercover agent, New York Times best-selling author and public speaker, will be the keynote speaker. According to the Beat Cancer Boot Camp site, Dobyns (a certifiable tough guy in UA football annals) will discuss “the amazing human spirit to overcome adversity and the resiliency of never giving up in the face of fear and danger”.
My father embodied that kind of amazing human spirit throughout his life, and it never diminished when he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the late 1990s. A former Tucson city councilman and community activist, he always was a symbol of strength when he served and represented the less fortunate in Tucson despite not being wealthy himself.
I recall that he never became overwhelmed by his chemotherapy treatments. He tried to keep that smile and his positive attitude, mostly to try to alleviate his family’s worries. Although those treatments weakened him physically, he continued to fulfill his duties as the Executive Director of El Pueblo Clinic. He also served on the Fair Housing Council before moving to the Pima County Health Board, where he served until cancer finally claimed his life on March 12, 2010.
He was an active member of the Lions Club, Elks, and Knights of Columbus.
My father’s spirit and resolve spurred me to take part in the Boot Camp for Cancer event in Las Vegas last Saturday. I know he would be proud of such an event because it brings awareness to the struggles of cancer victims, particularly those who need help financially to meet life’s demands. My father was a champion to those who were challenged to meet those demands and worked hard to try to provide for themselves and their families.
While taking on the grueling regimen of the boot camp, his spirit and the inspiration from my aunt Norma Contreras and cousin Yvonne Lizardi — both cancer victims as well — helped me complete the exercises.
The boot camp included four phases. The first included 20 minutes of non-stop fitness drills that would make even NFL players have to take a breather. The next was the relay by the side of the Las Vegas Athletic Building (nothing like trying to run as fast as you can into a strong cold wind). Following that was timed results in sit-ups, push-ups and a two-lap run on the track within the building. In the end was a strength training session that included the use of barbells, dumbbells, steps and exercise balls.
The movement from one station to the other was non-stop. It was indeed a boot camp with the volunteer fitness instructors — who donated their valuable time — pushing us along the way.
More than 175 people participated this year, an increase from the 150 or so who took part in the inaugural event last year. Each event raised close to $5,000, according to the event organizers.
Georges talked about how last year’s fund-raising helped some individuals stricken with cancer pay bills and get through temporarily some of life’s financial hardships. She has first-hand knowledge of that experience, much like my father knew all about trying to help others while going through difficulties of his own raising a family of five children with my mother Elsa in the barrio of South Tucson.
My father was all about giving back. He also respected those who paid it forward, with acts of kindness either random or planned.
Cancer has such a negative impact on our lives. It has altered mine forever. I know, through the spirit of my father, aunt Norma and cousin Yvonne, that the best way to combat cancer and all of its evils, is to take it on with an unbending strong faith and desire to rise above it.
Standing up to cancer goes beyond funding preventative research. Those who are already afflicted need our support. They can’t live without our support. We can all stand on common ground with that mission to improve their livelihood — UA and ASU fans, Democrats or Republicans, those for or against Tim Tebow, etc.
Participating in the Boot Camp for Cancer helps provide that hope for a better today for cancer patients. We may not be beating cancer, but we are literally giving it a run for its money. That run was grueling, as my sore legs are a testament, but I will be back next year, stronger than ever and gunning for first prize. Count on it.