Kara Orsolini

UO junior will run 4,000-mile relay in memory of family and friends

Each year, approximately eight million people worldwide die of cancer. That’s 22,000 every day. Fifteen every minute.

One person has died of cancer since you started reading this story.

By the time you finish this sentence, the number will have increased to two.

University of Oregon junior Kara Orsolini’s life has been impacted by many cancer victims in her short time on Earth; from a grandfather who only lived long enough to hold her once, to a childhood friend who did not live long enough to attend college.

This summer she is doing her part to fight the deadly disease, and like many Ducks—and many people raising money to help in the fight against cancer—she’s running. However, she isn’t running one of the many charity 5k races runners can choose from—she’s joining a 30-person 4k for Cancer relay team to spend 49 days running 4,000 miles, from San Francisco to Baltimore.

“We’ll have about 100 miles to do each day as a team,” said Orsolini, who is majoring in educational foundations in the College of Education. “We’ll have four vans. We’ll split up into groups, and each have about 25 miles to do per van each day.”

The runners run in pairs, two miles at a time, rotating through each van’s runners until the day’s limit is reached. Then the vans will drive to that day’s host point to rest until the following day, when the runners will get up and do it all over again, taking every fourth day off to rest and recover.

Along the way, Orsolini and her fellow runners will visit cancer centers to deliver supplies to young patients, and will even surprise two patients with college scholarships that the money they’ve raised has paid for.

“That’s what made this craziness seem worth it to me,” Orsolini said. “It’s a cause near and dear to so many peoples’ hearts. I’ve lost way too many people to the disease, and recently saw a good friend of mine, who I met freshman year here, fight like crazy and pull through. She’s coming back to the UO; this will be her first term back. That’s what made me think about the young adults part of it.

“We’ll get to deliver two full-ride scholarships for students in remission who are going to college. We get to present those to them, which is really cool.”

4k for Cancer

4k for Cancer is a program of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, and it harnesses the power of America’s healthy youth to make a difference in the lives of peers whose bodies are wracked by tumors and ravaged by the effects of chemotherapy. In 2013, runners and cyclists raised $800,000 to help young cancer patients; last year that number increased to more than $1 million. Every $25 raised pays for transportation so patients can make it to doctors’ appointments; $2,500 pays for a college scholarship; $10,000 launches a new Patient Navigation program at a cancer center.

To qualify for a team, Orsolini—who is battling a heart condition of her own, and will likely require a pacemaker within the next ten years—had to answer three essay questions and then pass a round of interviews. As one of the 30 runners preparing to run across America this summer, she is currently logging miles around Eugene’s streets and trails, getting her legs and lungs ready for the relay ahead.

“Right now I’m running 8-9 miles a day, and then on Saturdays and Sundays we’re doing back-to-back longer runs,” she said. “I’m on track to do the Eugene Half Marathon, so that’s has helped me.”

The San Francisco to Baltimore run will take Orsolini and her teammates from the Golden Gate Bridge on June 14 to Federal Hill in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on August 1. Along the way, they will run through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland; and will see South Lake Tahoe, the Great Salt Lake, Nebraska’s Sand Hills, the Great Lakes, and more.

“If anyone lives along the route, then come out and cheer us on and talk to us!” encouraged Orsolini.

But for the bubbly junior to run though, she needs to raise a further $1,600 before May 15. Each runner is obligated to raise at least $4,500 for 4k for Cancer—Orsolini upped the stakes and set herself a goal of $5,000—and if the runners don’t raise the money, they don’t run.

“Eighty-nine cents of every dollar goes straight into the programs that 4k has for young adults,” Orsolini said. “If every person donated a dollar, fifty cents even, that would be amazing. I’m trying to reach my goal to make sure this program can be as beneficial and supportive as possible.”

If you would like to support Kara Orsolini, and help her reach her goal so that she can help young cancer patients while running 4,000 miles across America this summer, visit her fundraising page at http://4kforcancer.org/profiles/kara-orsolini/.