(Iron Mountain - December 31, 2017) - The following article was submitted for publication by Vikki Baumler. Dickinson County News has not independently verified any of the information contained in the article.

2018 marks 10 years since I joined an amazing organization to ride in honor of my talented and funny dad, Bruce Baumler - a Vietnam Veteran with the Shadow Warriors of the 405th Det 2, 3rd RRU and a 1963 graduate of Kingsford High School. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society trains athletes and non-athletes to ride, run, hike and swim to raise funds for leukemia and lymphoma research and patient support.

In 2008, I received a post card about Team in Training (TNT)—a division of the Leukemia and Lymphoma (LLS) society. I signed up immediately – running my first half marathon in 2008 in honor of my dad, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2003 due to Agent Orange Exposure.

Fast-forward 10 years and I am now raising funds for my 7th and 8th events with LLS—a 100-mile ride around Lake Tahoe on June 3, 2018 and a 150-mile 2-day Mequon-to-Sturgeon Bay-ride July 2018, both in my dad’s memory. My goal is to raise $5,000 by July 1.

Obviously, to raise $5,000 by July 1, 2018, I need to employ several fundraising initiatives (aka mini goals). So - I'm getting the word out as much as possible to everyone who may have known or loved my dad. To know him - was to love him, indeed.

Please submit your tax deductible donation at www.miles4dad.com

(LLS is a 501c3 nonprofit and you will receive a letter for this tax deduction.)

In this season of giving and New Year’s resolutions, I’m reminded of my 2008 resolution—one that would change my life and get me over my damn self.

Following a divorce in late 2006, I spent a considerable amount of time having a pity party for one. Don’t get me wrong – divorce was incredibly hard and I definitely needed to take the time to get to know myself, learn and grow so I could avoid the same mistakes. But – I certainly felt like my pity party was dragging on a bit too long. Who wants to be the lingering guest at a party? It was time to kick myself out.

Enter January 2008: I received a post card from the #LeukemiaandLymphomaSociety (LLS) for a group called #TeaminTraining (TNT). Immediately intrigued – I jumped online to learn more about one event – the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon & Half Marathon in San Diego, CA. Years earlier, my dad was diagnosed with Leukemia due to Agent Orange exposure during Vietnam. I thought – I can do this for HIM.

While I was not a runner, I had visions of myself striding like a gazelle through beautiful San Diego. I signed up for my first event, invited my parents to the inspiration dinner and race, and set my sights on learning to be a runner – and meeting the $3,900 fundraising commitment.

After months of training runs, fundraising events, garage sales, brat barns and tons of support from friends and family, I flew out to San Diego and became part of a huge, motivated and dedicated family of cancer fighters. The inspiration dinner moved me beyond words – I was hooked. I knew before I even “ran” the race, I would sign up again and again. Stories of children, adults and veterans like my dad facing fear, treatment and financial concerns were undeniably emotional. My dad always said how fortunate he was to have full medical coverage from the VA but wondered aloud how people could afford the expensive treatment. (Yeap – he was over himself a long time ago.)

As it turned out, I ran more like an injured gazelle stuck in mud. Tendinitis and over training made my run pretty comical at times--as I pulled over to adjust my foot wraps every few miles. But – I was so moved. 13.1 miles of runners and walkers – most complete strangers to each other - cheering each other on.

Miles upon miles of spectators shouting encouragement and gratitude and oftentimes, making us laugh to forget about our feet and legs.

I’ll never forget what I saw at mile 11. I was 2.1 miles from the finish and I was dragging. Then I saw a man with a sign that read, “THIS CANCER SURVIVOR THANKS YOU. 11 YEARS CANCER FREE.” He looked each runner right in the eye and said, “Thank you.” I started bawling. Here I was trying to get out of my own head but I was thinking about my painful feet. I received a timely reminder that this was not about me. This was about cancer survivors and heroes. This was about my dad – who was at the finish line waiting for me. A renewed pep in my step, I wiped away the tears, and focused on my dad.
TNT and LLS raises millions of dollars every year for blood cancer research and patient support. Over the years, I’ve heard moving stories of how LLS helped patients and their families pay bills, cover insurance premiums and buy prescription drugs.

In 2018, I will celebrate my 10th year with TNT/LLS. I’ve raised more than $15,000 for LLS. And I’m not done. With my dreams of being a marathoner gazelle dashed by uncooperative feet, I am now a cyclist. On June 3, 2018 I will do my 5th long distance cycling event -- 100 miles around Lake Tahoe in my dad’s memory and for the millions of people who face blood cancer today. (In July, I’ll ride 150 miles throughout Wisconsin.)

TNT/LLS reminds me time and again that there’s a bigger mission in life: Riding (or running, hiking, walking, swimming--or limping) for patient support and the end of blood cancer.
Want to learn more about TNT or LLS – message me. I welcome any questions. Want to help me fight cancer?

Donate online at www.miles4dad.com.

Thanks for reading!