Heather Von St. James at Miles 4 Meso

September is filled with a lot of wonderful opportunities to support mesothelioma awareness through fundraising events and gatherings across the country! In my last post, I wrote about how I joined the Kayaking 4 Meso event in Upstate New York. In this post, I’m going to share my experience with the Miles for Meso event halfway across the country in Illinois.

Miles for Meso

Two weeks after the Kayaking 4 Meso, I was on my way to another fun event, the 8th Annual Miles for Meso 5k/2k race and fun run to benefit the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. This was my third year attending the Miles for Meso race with ADAO, and I always have such a great time, not only participating but just being there in Alton, Illinois, for the event.

This year, I decided to bring my husband Cameron and daughter Lily along so they could be a part of this wonderful event. We formed Team Casa VSJ, and off we went. Lily has wanted to go to this race since I attended my first one in 2014, and so having her there was a lot of fun.

It is like a family reunion of sorts, attending these events year after year. You get to know the volunteers, the people who work so hard to put this race together, and the people I’ve known through the years that attend the race. My friend Domani is one such person. I met her at an ADAO conference with her dad and sisters probably four years ago. I have since gotten to know her family, and her wonderful Dad, who we all call “Dave, SuperDad,” passed away a couple of months ago. He was such an amazing fighter, that even after being diagnosed with mesothelioma and told he had a few months to live, went on to live another five years. Domani was there, and ran the race in his honor and for 12 other meso patients that have touched her life.

Lily at Miles 4 Meso

That is what is unique about this Miles for Meso race. We have virtual teams of Mesothelioma Warriors, both currently fighting and in remembrance of those no longer with us. Bibs are made with the names of the warriors and race participants wear them and run the race in their honor. I do it for my friend John, and this year, my daughter wore my name. It is humbling to see the runners all lined up wearing the name of a warrior, and something that so hard to put into words. These are real people who have been affected by mesothelioma, a fact that is not lost on those who choose to run for them.

I tried to find as many names as I could to send loved ones photos of their runners. There were over 1,200 participants in this year’s race, and a record $40,000 was raised for The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. Having my husband and daughter there was a wonderful addition. Sharing these events with them gives them a bit of insight as to what it is that I do. Lily finally understands a little more why I spend so much time talking on the phone to patients and why we raise money for mesothelioma research and asbestos awareness. It was fun to participate in the race with them.

Cameron and Lily at Miles 4 Meso

To make it even better, my dear friend Anna Marie, another patient, brought her daughter and participated as well. They came in all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah. Being at the race is one thing, but being there for Linda Reinstein and ADAO is what makes it so special. She is a tireless voice for asbestos victims in getting the toxic substance banned, that any time I can help her and her organization out, it is more than an honor.

I’ll be back next week with my last and final update about the fall mesothelioma awareness activities that I’ve been blessed to be a part of.