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Halfs for Hope: Runner Uses Half-Marathon Fundraiser to Benefit Cancer Research

Faced with personal heartache from the loss of her aunt, Stephanie Berry turned adversity into triumph. By performing her running fundraiser Halfs for Hope, Berry has earned nearly $7,000 for the Foundation for Women's Cancer in her aunt's memory.

The Raceday Call

Stephanie Berry was always a runner. In recent years she picked up half marathons as her primary hobby, and as a release from everyday life. It was during one of these runs—The Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon that she received heartbreaking news.

She knew her aunt was coming to the end of a long fight with cancer. Berry had missed a call from her mother the night before, and was pretty sure of what that call meant. But it was not until Mile 10 of the race that she received confirmation. Her aunt had passed away at 11:30 the night before.

With the type of tight-knit family that visited often and brought the whole crew together for every holiday, the news shattered her, but she knew she had to finish the race. The tears streaming down her face couldn’t stop Berry from finishing with a personal best time of 1:56:16.

Turning Tragedy into Triumph

It wasn’t long after that Berry continued the theme of turning personal tragedy into triumph. With her aunt’s memory as inspiration, Berry started a half-marathon fundraising campaign that has now raised over $6,500 to benefit the Foundation for Women’s Cancer.

“I really wanted to do something in her memory and her honor,” Berry explained when asked why she started this running fundraiser. “Yes, my Aunt’s gone and that’s always going to hurt, but this is a way for me and my family to cope. The outpouring of love and support from family and friends is overwhelming. It’s something that is bigger than me at this point.”

Columbus was one of seven half-marathons Berry challenged herself with last year. This year, she decided to go for eight. After she registered for the races, she launched her half marathon fundraiser, Halfs for Hope. What started with a modest five hundred-dollar goal quickly grew into something more. With her aunt’s memory attached, Halfs for Hope became a way for her family to honor and remember her as well. And they have backed Stephanie’s efforts in full force.

She started simply by sharing with her family and asking them to pledge per race. Then they gave, and they shared with their groups, and her campaign picked up some serious momentum. Stephanie soon had to contact the Pledge It support team for its favorite kind of “problem:” She needed to raise her goal. A lot. She’s now surpassed her original target by $6,000, and is well on her way to hitting her new total of $7,500. Berry has been blown away by the success she has achieved in her aunt’s memory.

The Family Impact

“It means so much to my mom and my other aunts and uncles, to my whole family,” she said when asked to reflect on the impact her half marathon campaign has made. “We’re not going to forget, she’s always going to be a part of everything we do. So this is a way for me to help honor her, to keep her name going.”

Her Pledge It campaign has become such a success that, not even halfway through, Berry already has plans for a second marathon fundraiser next year to honor another one of her aunts, who was diagnosed with ALS.

With the hardships hitting her family in fairly quick fashion, it can sometimes be hard to keep a positive outlook on life. But if she gets too down, she thinks of the lesson she learned when finishing the Columbus Half-Marathon.

“You can’t stop, you can’t give up,” Berry explained. ”Things get hard, but you can’t quit trying. You have to push through, no matter what. Whether that’s running or other aspects of life, you can’t stop trying. You have to have faith in something bigger than yourself. This fundraiser isn't about me, it's about honoring my Aunt and sharing God's love, hope and peace.”

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Published on June 14, 2019

by Alexander Diegel

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