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Mesothelioma Awareness Day, established by Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation volunteers in 2004, has been the driving force behind the movement to bring more attention and funding to mesothelioma.

For many years, I, along with many others, would travel to NYC to commemorate the day. We’d get up and and go on The Today Show’s plaza with our signs, and talk briefly with the hosts.

For the last two years, I decided to do something different. On that day, Miles for Meso races are held all over the country. The race I attended was in Alton, IL, where the Miles for Meso movement was founded. This year was the event’s 7th anniversary. For the last two years, the race’s benefactor was the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). I’ve been very active with both the Meso Foundation and the ADAO for many years, and any chance I have to help raise money for such a worthy cause is an honor.

I got a late start this year, deciding to participate in the race a month prior. Despite my late start, however, I was able to raise $795 thanks to many generous supporters. This earned me the title of largest individual fundraiser for the second year in a row.

September 26th dawned a sunny day with a crisp chill in the air, and the promise of a beautiful day ahead. As volunteers set up the race area, ADAO also set up a table with computers to allow everyone to send congress a personal message urging them to ban asbestos.

Over 1000 participants turned out for the race and many ran in honor of a mesothelioma warrior. Last year, 24 fighters were represented by runners, and that number doubled this year. It was quite powerful to see all the names of meso warriors on the runners, many of whom I know. I was no different; I ran in honor of my friend John and proudly wore his name for the race.

I can’t explain the feeling, seeing all the people in their blue shirts, from all walks of life out to support this cause. Being there, representing ADAO — I was humbled and became emotional when I really thought about how many people are affected by this disease. There were people with T-shirts on that said “In Memory Of” followed by the name and picture of a family member. There were moms and dads with strollers, so the whole family could be involved. There was a sweet middle school student who was nervous because it was his first 5K; he ended up winning his age bracket. There are so many stories, so many people who are all too aware of mesothelioma.

The total amount raised was over $30,000—a record breaking year for the Alton Miles for Meso race. I want to give a huge thank you to the people from Simmons Hanley and Conroy for hosting this race, and to Todd and Sarah, who put so much of themselves into the event. You should be proud of what you accomplished.

In the end, it felt incredible to not only be a part of something that makes a huge impact on a community, but also makes a difference for the ADAO. I cannot wait to see what next year brings.