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A Mini-Undy Comes to the University of West Alabama

May 17, 2012

Colon cancer is a disease that hits close to home for the sisters of the University of West Alabama’s Alpha Sigma Tau sorority.  A few years ago, both their chapter advisor and the mother of their chapter president were diagnosed with colon-related diseases.  Their advisor had had severe ulcerative colitis for many years which began showing signs of dysplasia, while their president’s mother was diagnosed with colon cancer.   Stephanie Hyche, their advisor, was only 33 at the time and opted for a total colectomy and permanent ileostomy to prevent progression of the disease. Their president’s mom, Amy Ellis, underwent several surgical procedures and is currently still enduring chemotherapy and radiation with a hopeful prognosis.

The sisters rallied behind these two important women and decided to do something to fight back against colon cancer.  Stephanie had had the opportunity to participate in an Undy 5000 run shortly after recovery from her surgery, and loved it.  She suggested that a smaller version of the Undy would be a great activity to bring to Western Alabama as an awareness tool and a fun activity for every one of all abilities.  Danielle Neupert, an Alpha Sigma Tau sister, says, “There are so many runs and races, but our little town had never hosted anything like this. We knew that with an active Greek community like we have, we could promote it well because college students are a little irreverent anyway.  Our sorority hosts an annual event at which we attempt some type of “a-thon” for a relevant cause. The Undy 5000 run just fit the bill and brought attention to a cause that affected us personally.”

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Not only did they host their own mini-Undy, but after the run, the sisters had a “Pants-off, Dance-off” party, open to both Undy participants and the rest of the student body. “It didn’t seem fair to have people all undressed with no place to go!  So, we hired a DJ and played music to continue the party.”

Danielle says her sisters had a great time planning the event and that it was fairly easy to do. “We made a Facebook group about it because we have seen that has a lot of success with getting the word out about things on our campus. The day of the event we handed out flyers to everyone and with our school being so small word really traveled fast. We are also very lucky that the Greek unity is really good on campus and they promoted our event. We decorated for the Undy and the party with blue pennant banners, and underwear strung all around.”

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Word traveled fast and despite the rainy day, there was a great turnout! The sisters of Alpha Sigma Tau raised almost $650 for the Colon Cancer Alliance’s fight against colon cancer. The sisters are proud of their huge success and can’t wait to work on another mini-Undy next year.

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If you are interested in hosting a mini-Undy in your town, please contact the Undy 5000 Team at Undy5000@ccalliance.org.

Buffalo, NY rocks an Undy in their undies!

May 4, 2012

This past weekend found Team Undy in Buffalo, NY- home of the buffalo wing, windshield wipers, grain elevators, Millard Fillmore, and Tess Fraser, Buffalo Undy 5000 Chairperson.

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Tess Fraser, Buffalo Undy 5000 Chairperson

For a little background, we get e-mails every day, asking us to come to certain cities. We ask people who want to host an Undy in their city to fill out a request form and provide us with some information about why we should come there. Tess’s application blew us away. She had done her research, answered all of our questions thoroughly and thoughtfully, come up with a fantastic logo for the Buffalo Undy, AND made a “Top 10 List” on why the Undy should come to Buffalo. She had a great reason to be so motivated- her mother had just been diagnosed with colon cancer and Tess wanted to get the Undy to Buffalo so she and her mother could walk in it together. We were sold and added Buffalo to our Undy calendar.

In the weeks leading up to the Undy, we sat in DC and watched the numbers steadily grow. Then we got a shock- there was SNOW on the ground! When we were in Buffalo in March for the Undy Kickoff Party it was 80 degrees. Surprisingly enough, the participant numbers grew even more rapidly as soon as the snow started! Buffalonians really wanted to run in their undies in the snow.We were thrilled about the numbers, but not so excited for the cold weather.

When the morning of April 28th rolled around, the thermometer read 28 degrees. We all bundled up and headed to Delaware Park. Soon enough we were joined by our giant walk-through colon, New York State Senator Mark Grisanti, 26 colon cancer survivors, some of our amazing sponsors, a few buffalo, and over 900 participants in underwear and great costumes! Senator Grisanti helped us kick off the morning, by declaring the day “Buffalo Undy 5000 5K” Day in the state of New York, and presenting Tess with a proclamation. Dr. Richard Kaplan, from our lead sponsor, Gastroenterology Associates, shot the gun and our racers were off! The overall male and female winner were both from the Big Booty Babes team. Everyone had a great time in their undies, but we’ll let one of our participants tell you- check out Kyra Mancine’s blog.Our participants helped the Colon Cancer Alliance raise over $100,000 to help in the fight against colon cancer.

We need to give a huge thank you to Tess Fraser and her fantastic committee, who put on this event and made it one of the largest first year events we’ve ever had! Thanks to Janice Delehanty and Jeff Bavisotto- our top two fundraisers, both running in honor of a family member survivor. Thank you to Kevin Kruppa, our fantastic survivor speaker, for having the courage to share his story and encourage everyone to get screened. Thank you to Senator Grisanti and his Deputy Chief of Staff Joel for coming out. Thank you to our local sponsors: Gastroenterology Associates, the Endoscopy Center of Western New York, Digestive Health Physicians, Buffalo Medical Group, Upstate Steel, Rupp, Baase, Pfalzgraf, Cunningham & Coppola LLC, Buffalo Spree, Star 102.5, and Rich Products. Last, but certainly not least, we can’t forget to thank all of you who came out to participate in the Inaugural Buffalo Undy 5000 and who made it such a success. We can’t wait to see you next year!

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     Jeff Bavisotto and Janice Delehanty                   Senator Mark Grisanti and Deputy Chief of Staff, Joel

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             Survivor Ceremony                                                                   Runners in their great boxers!

Meet Teri- One Tough Triathlete

March 26, 2012

The Ironman Triathlon. A 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. To most people this would be a daunting prospect. Not to Teri Griege. She trained hard to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in 2008. She completed the Louisville Ironman (her first Ironman) 5 minutes short of qualifying. She trained harder in 2009, determined to make it the next year. She wasn’t feeling well, and had some pain, but chalked it up to all of her hard training. That year she finished 10 minutes off her last time.

One of Teri’s friends is married to a gastroenterologist  who, upon hearing her symptoms, told her she needed to go in for a colonoscopy. Two weeks after Teri finished the 2009 Louisville Ironman  she was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer with metastasis to her liver. Teri began chemotherapy and radiation and underwent a colon and liver resection. Two weeks after Teri’s diagnosis, her two older sisters went in for colonoscopies. One sister had precancerous polyps and the other had Stage III colon cancer. Both will tell anyone who asks that their sister saved their lives.

During all of her months of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, the one thing Teri did not do was stop training. One year, to the day, after being diagnosed with colon cancer, Teri finished a 1/2 Ironman. In 2011, Teri qualified for the Ironman World Championship. She was still undergoing maintenance chemotherapy, but that wasn’t going to stop her. With Ironman cameras following her to share her inspirational story, Teri crossed the finish line, exhausted but ecstatic.

Today Teri spends her time sharing her story, advocating for awareness, and, of course, training. She plans to be in Berlin, Germany in September to run the 39th BMW Berlin Marathon and hopes to be in London in 2013. But most importantly, she will be participating in the St. Louis Undy 5000 this weekend, with her team, Team Teri.

Teri is thrilled to be sharing more of her story during the Undy 5000 closing ceremonies. To sign up to join her, her family, and Team Teri at this weekend’s Undy 5000, please go to http://www.Undy5000.org. For more information about Teri, please visit her webpage at http://www.TeriGriege.com.

Halloween Hineys – Atlanta Undy 5000

February 21, 2012

Their 2011 team name was “Halloween Hineys,” but you may know them better as “that team in Atlanta that wore bright orange T-shirts that say ‘Cuck Fancer’.”

You may also have seen that this repeat team for the Atlanta Undy 5000 raised $3,145!

A few of the Halloween Hineys 2011

While the Cuck Fancer shirts have remained the same since Atlanta’s first Undy in 2010, the team name has changed, based on certain themes. Adam Kirn, team captain, says they chose a Christmas-related theme last year (Christmas Colonoscopies), and this year, because it was closer to Halloween, went with Halloween Hineys. Whatever the name, the team is always there for the same purpose – to honor and remember Adam’s mom, who passed away from colon cancer at the young age of 57.

Adam says there was no family history of cancer, much less colon cancer, before his mom was diagnosed. At one point in late 2008, she fell and landed on her tailbone, but the pain in her rear was consistently getting worse. After nearly a year of pain that wouldn’t subside, she went to the hospital, only to shockingly discover in October of 2009 that she had stage IV colon cancer. Adam says they went through the typical treatment regime, but because the cancer was so aggressive at this point, the treatment was ineffective. She passed away in May 2010.

“The whole reason for the team is to celebrate my mom. She had such a bright personality and was such a loving individual. One of my friends stumbled across the race, and we thought it’d be fun and help other people as well,” said Adam. “We’re all grad students and doctors in med school at Clemson, so we’re all broke. We’re not going to win the fundraising competition, and we’re not runners, so we won’t win that, but we wanted to have the most fun. And that’s what my mom would have wanted.”

In 2010, Adam says they decided on Christmas Colonoscopies because his mom used to give him and his siblings Christmas underwear every year as a gift. One of his teammates, a gastroenterologist, painted her car with the words “Christmas Colonoscopies” on it, right before the race, back in November of 2010. He says she finally washed it off in August of 2011. Why? Adam says people coming to see her at work were asking her tons of questions about it; they asked her about colonoscopies and screenings. She finally said that so many people were asking her about it, that she wasn’t going to wash it off her car until the questions stopped for a solid two months. That took almost an entire year.

Christmas Colonoscopies in 2010

The Cuck Fancer theme was simply a moment of inspiration for him, and, Adam says, his opinion on the whole ordeal. It’s bold, brash and crass, but it gets the point across. And Adam says it gets attention – more than he ever thought possible. He says he gets stopped in the street by people asking him the meaning behind his shirt, and it’s been a great outlet for him to get his story out. He says he’s had many conversations with people he never would have talked to without that shirt.

Adam says they’ll be back for the 2012 Atlanta Undy 5000, too. What theme will they take on this year?

Peonies for Diane – St. Louis Undy 5000

February 14, 2012

Meet “Peonies for Diane,” a new team dedicated to participating in and fundraising for the upcoming St. Louis Undy 5000. Traveling from Chicago to St. Louis, they are already the top St. Louis Undy 5000 fundraising team, with already more than $1,900 raised out of their $2,000 goal!

Peonies for Diane was originally a fundraiser created after Diane Rath, an oil painter who specialized in peonies, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer just after her 56th birthday. Lucy Rath (Diane’s daughter) and her two siblings started this fundraiser to sell some of her paintings because she had no health insurance when she was diagnosed. The first fundraiser was an art show with Diane’s work in a tiny Lake Bluff train station, and within an hour, almost all of her artwork was sold. Three more fundraisers were organized, and Diane’s medical bills got a little lighter.

Diane paints peonies

Despite the financial help, her health deteriorated quickly, and Diane only made it 8 months until she had to be put in hospice care. Lucy said that even though she was restricted in what she could do at that point, the positive vibe coming off of her mother was always so great. Diane lived a very artistic and free-spirited life, and it seemed nothing could ever bring her down. She passed away in September 2011.

Many lives were touched by Diane. She taught oil painting in Lake Forest, IL, and held workshops around the world from New Mexico to Paris. “She taught a lot of life lessons about having a positive vibe, and as a painter, never talking down your painting,” Lucy said. “She always used to say ‘If you say it’s going to look like garbage, it will!'”

The diagnosis, which happened on New Year’s Day in 2011, came as a blow to the family. Diane’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer when he was 99, but nobody thought that would ever impact the family the way it did, especially considering there were no other cancer scares. Because Diane used and believed in nontraditional medicines, she took lots of herbs and hoped for natural healing at first; especially since her doctor originally told her never to get a colonoscopy and that she likely just had a parasite, Lucy said. After a month of not getting better, Lucy said Diane’s stomach had expanded so much, she brought her to the hospital immediately. They were expecting many things: parasites, kidney stones, ulcers. But not cancer. And especially not stage IV colon cancer.

After being diagnosed, she was taken to Northwestern, and Lucy said she was blown away at how considerate and genuinely concerned the doctors and staff all were for Diane’s well being. While in chemo and treatment, Lucy and her siblings played different roles for Diane. Lucy did much of the marketing and fundraising for the medical bills, her brother took care of the finances, and her sister lived with Diane, being her primary caretaker.

Diane and Family

As for the Undy 5000, Lucy just recently found out about the event and said she couldn’t be more excited for it.

“We’re going to go all out,” she said. “The plan for now is to make T-shirts, and we’re going to see if we could get matching pink boxers and screen print them with some peonies. We also want peony tiaras. We want to do it big. We want to make a lasting impression.”

The family plans on selling some of the paintings and donating the proceeds to the St. Louis Undy 5000, which will in turn pour money back into the community to help with local colon cancer screening and treatment initiatives. For more information on her paintings, visit www.peoniesfordianerath.com.

Ralph’s Butt Heads – DC Undy 5000

February 9, 2012

440 miles

That’s how far “Ralph’s Butt Heads” traveled from Boston to participate in the 2011 DC Undy 5000. Team captain Theresa said she was looking for a local 5K run for colon cancer, and the closest one she could find was Rhode Island. But when she stumbled across the Undy 5000 website, she said to herself “That’s it! I’m running through DC in my undies!” And thus, her Undy team was formed.

Ralph's Butt Heads pose at the DC Undy 5000 with a photo of Ralph Fucillo, who was taken too soon at the age of 55 from stage III colon cancer.

Ralph’s Butt Heads is named after Theresa’s brother, who passed away at just 55 years old, 5 years after being diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. Theresa says there is a history of cancer in the family, but it was the first time colon cancer made an appearance.

Ralph

“At first he thought it was just a ‘thing.’ A bug, or something he ate. But he went and got checked and that’s when they found [the colon cancer].”Ralph had some polyps removed, and Theresa and her family thought everything went well, but within months it was discovered that the cancer had traveled not only to his liver and lungs, but his brain, too.

Theresa says she and her sister wanted to do something to honor Ralph’s outgoing, loving personality. When thinking about what Ralph really enjoyed in life, Theresa answered with “beautiful women and woodwork.”

Ralph’s Butt Heads was also the top fundraising team at the DC Undy 5000, raising just over $4,000! Theresa says a lot of her donations came from friends who had previously donated to her team she formed for the 3-day Komen Walk, but some of the money was from fun fundraising tactics. Theresa’s son runs a tavern in Abbington, MA, and he had a 3-month fundraiser called “Pin a Dollar to the Ceiling,” in which patrons gave $1 and the tavern tried to cover the ceiling with bills. The tavern also had some 50/50 raffles, and by the end, $700 came from the bar fundraisers.

The 11-member team is composed of mostly family and close friends. All 11 traveled from Boston and spent the weekend in Washington, D.C., taking in the sites, which most of them had never seen. They arrived in blue, custom-made sweatshirts that they plan on wearing for all future Undy races they attend.

“I loved the event and the cause, and I just hope it gets out there and gets just as big or bigger than breast cancer. It’s not talked about too much, and I’m always posting stuff on social media about ‘hey you’re 50 – get checked!’ I just hope that one day we get to be as big, bold and beautiful as Komen.”

We’re Back!

February 6, 2012

And again, I apologize for the excruciatingly long delay in Undy blog posts! The past few months have been a relay of sorts.

DALLAS

We had the Dallas Undy on Oct. 29, with about 800 folks clad in their Undies or costumes who helped raise almost $120,000! A portion of these funds are going to the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Centers, which supports colorectal cancer screening programs that target the under- and uninsured populations.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Then there was the DC Undy on a (very) chilly and (very) dark morning on Nov. 5. Almost 380 people came dressed in their warmest Undies to run the gorgeous route adjacent to the Potomac River. And they raised about $100,000!

One of the more artistic outfits we've had in a while!

ATLANTA

The 2nd Annual Atlanta Undy 5000 broke – nay – shattered last year’s records with more than 500 participants and almost $100,000 raised on Nov. 12! This is a venue that really couldn’t get much better.

PHOENIX!

And to round out 2011, on Nov. 19, the Phoenix Undy 5000 became the highest-grossing Undy 5000 EVER – with just over 1,300 people raising over $150,000 in the fight against colon cancer!! A portion of these funds were left behind to support colon cancer screening programs of the Arizona Department of Health Services Fit at Fifty HealthCheck Program!