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News | Sept. 15, 2017

DLA Land and Maritime team runs 131 miles for cancer awareness

By Kristin Molinaro DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

The finish line marks the end of a race – mental or physical. It’s a tangible sign that you’ve reached a desired outcome. For many, it signifies the accomplishment of a hard-fought goal. But what if you don’t know where the finish line is or how far you must go to get there? That’s a question people diagnosed with cancer face each day. And it’s the question posed by a team of DLA Land and Maritime athletes running for cancer awareness. Team Are We There Yet? took on the challenge of running 131 miles – from Columbus to Cincinnati – in a 24-hour relay to benefit the American Cancer Society on Aug. 25. 

“It touches all of us – whether it’s a close relative or a close friend,” said Army Col. Yee Hang, director of Land Supplier Operations and founding member of the relay team. 

The eight-person relay team consisted of service members and civilians running to honor friends and relatives affected by cancer and included members from Land Supplier Operations, Engineering and Operations Directorate and Acquisition Management. In addition to Hang, the team members were Mindy Cook, Kendall and Kelly Cottongim, Kim Cunningham, Todd Lewis, Mindy Tisone and former associate Eric Rodino. 

“It’s a great team environment and we have a great team of folks who’ve run this thing,” said Lewis, who serves as the director for Engineering and Operations Directorate. “A lot of us run for fun and are training for a certain event. This combines the joy of training and raising money for the cancer society but it’s also a time to reflect on those we’ve lost, or those suffering from cancer that are close to us.”

Wearing a bright yellow vest, Mindy Cook kicked off the first leg of the team’s relay after a group start at Genoa Park in downtown Columbus. The remaining team members boarded two trailing vehicles to follow her progress on the route and prepared for their own portion of the relay. The 131-mile course was broken into nearly 6-mile stretches, with each runner completing three legs – just under 18 miles total – before the race finished at International Friendship Park in Cincinnati the following afternoon.

This is the second year the team has participated in the relay run. The team started with a goal of raising $2,500 for ACS. By race time, they had exceeded their goal, raising $3,800 for ACS. “We really want to bring awareness to what the American Cancer Society is doing,” said Cook, who wrapped the Pelotonia bike ride fundraiser in early August to raise money for cancer research. “They fund cancer research and provide help for cancer patients – like lodging and transportation to their medical appointments. They educate patients about cancer and what it means when they hear that word.”

For Cook, the cause is a personal one. She dedicated this run to her mother, Jill, a breast cancer survivor.

“Because of cancer research and everything the American Cancer Society has done, she’s still here with us today,” Cook said.

“There are so many people out there going through challenges with cancer and they’re enduring a lot. This (relay) challenge is very minor compared to what people with cancer are going through,” she added.

The impetus behind the team’s run for cancer began in 2013, when Hang, Cottongim and Rodino partnered for a relay around Columbus. Building from that experience, they put together an eight-person team in 2016 for their first relay to Cincinnati and held a contest to choose a name for the new team. They selected their name, Are We There Yet?, from the submissions. “We can relate to that name. We’ll be running tonight into tomorrow and think ‘Are we there yet?’” Hang said.

Cancer patients no doubt ask themselves a similar question as they go through various rounds of treatment, Hang remarked, so the team name is very fitting.

So are we there yet?

We’re getting there, Hang said.