Mission Moment Speakers
Cathy Rehfus-Wilsek - “Kick Off” Speaker
In August of 1994, Cathy’s six-year-old daughter, Paigé, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). That same month, 25 athletes were training in the hot sun to compete in the first ever Team In Training (TNT) event in Chicago – the 17th annual Chicago Marathon. Six weeks later, Paigé stood in the cold Chicago morning dew at the start of the marathon and cheered on those first TNT participants. Hours later she was rushed to the hospital with a fever of 103, but she had a smile on her face because she knew she'd become part of something quite spectacular. Just how spectacular Team In Training truly became she would never fully realize because three years later Paigé lost her battle with leukemia. She died on August 7, 1997, at the age of nine.
Paigé’s spirit lives on in the program. Her father, Rich, has run several marathons and triathlons with TNT and is now a mentor for the program. Her mother, Cathy, has been an active volunteer with TNT, speaking at numerous TNT gatherings and volunteering at the victory tents after TNT events. She has also been an advocate in Washington, D.C. for blood cancer research, trained to do the Disney Triathlon in September of 2005, and takes every opportunity she gets to inspire people to particpate in TNT events.
In addition to her TNT advocacy, Cathy has taken her desire to "help and give back" to a new level. Well into her third year of medical school and working in a hospital setting, she is getting ever closer to realizing her life long goal of becoming a physician. Upon her graduation in 2011, she looks forward to becoming a pediatric hematology/oncologist. "Every day I miss my daughter Paigé," she says. "I look forward to treating children with cancer." Paigé photos
Barbara Friedman – “A Tale of Two Moms”
In November of 1993, Barbara’s five year old son, Kevin, became the victim of Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), an aggressive form of blood cancer that is rare in children. Kevin required a bone marrow transplant but there was no match in his family. A donor was found through the National Donor Marrow Program, and countless transfusions, medical tests, and painful procedures later, Kevin received the transplant on February 11, 1994. Within weeks, Kevin’s new immune system was able to overcome all of the adverse affects of the chemo and radiation he had undergone and he walked out of the hospital 28 days later, a record at that time. After a one month stay at the Ronald McDonald House for daily follow-up care, Kevin returned home for good on March 26th, 1994. He has continued to remain healthy and recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of his bone marrow transplant. (Kevin met and stays in regular touch with his marrow donor, Jim Worthley). Today he is a junior at Iowa State University where he is constantly on the go and lives life to the absolute fullest.
Barbara has never forgotten the anxious times her family went through during that dark period of their lives, nor how many wonderful people rallied to support them. She decided to give back by joining the Team In Training Patient Honoree Program in 1997, and then as a participant in 1999 when she power walked her first marathon. To date, Barbara has completed 15 full marathons, 15 half marathons, and 2 triathlons, raising many thousands of dollars along the way. She has been a Mission Moment speaker at numerous TNT gatherings motivating and inspiring countless TNTers by sharing Kevin’s story. “ It was a new mission in my life,” she says, “to share our story...to encourage others that what they are doing is making a difference in peoples' lives.”
Barbara is currently fundraising and training with Team In Training for two upcoming half marathons and also hard at work getting ready for her daughter Michelle’s wedding in May. “The emotional healing continues”, she adds, “The celebration of LIFE continues with each person I meet and encourage, and every dollar I raise in honor of my son's success story.” Kevin photos