Over the weekend of November 18 and 19, we attended the 2017 Philadelphia Marathon. There, we had the honor of cheering on our team of 35 runners as they participated in the various races on behalf of the Emily Whitehead Foundation.

This year, our runners raised over $34,000! In three years as an official charity partner in the Philadelphia Marathon, Team EWF has now raised over $121,000.

“Every team is special,” says Emily Whitehead Foundation board member and marathon coordinator Jodie Potter, “but as our participation with the charity program continues, the bond among team members gets stronger. I see the struggles that they overcome, and I see team members eager to help each other succeed.”

A few such team members were 10-year-old Jake, the youngest member of our team, 13-year-old Sophie, who finished first in her age group, and Sarah McCormick from Alaska, who joined the team just two weeks prior to race weekend and became the second highest fund raiser on this year's team.

On joining Team EWF, Sarah says, “I had never met a single soul on the team and yet it felt as if it took but mere minutes for people to welcome me with open arms. I shared a bit of my family’s story on the team’s Facebook page and the feedback and support and prayers and positive energy that I received was indescribable. Complete strangers were now running for [my niece] Sophia and for our family.”

“Everyone on the team has their own personal motivations for running,” says Jodie, “but we all have a common motivation to see an end to childhood cancer. I’m thankful for everyone who runs for EWF, and I try to make sure they know how much we appreciate their efforts.”

Looking ahead, Team EWF is currently assembling runners and preparing for participation in the Pittsburgh Marathon in May 2018. Runners can fundraise for EWF and run for free, or if they are already registered, can join the team and fundraise with no fundraising minimum.

Registration information for the 2018 Philadelphia Marathon will be announced through EWF social media when available.

To all 35 runners, our day of event volunteers, and those who supported our team in their fundraising efforts, we are incredibly thankful. Together, we are taking great strides toward activating the cure for all children fighting cancer!

Sarah's Story

In March 2014, at 7 years old, Sarah's youngest niece, Sophia, was diagnosed with pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia—a diagnosis that Sarah says left the family in shock and terror, and questioning how a vibrant, strong, perfectly healthy human could live for 7 beautiful years and all of a sudden be consumed by almost 100% cancer cells.

Three years later, Sophia was in remission. When her cancer returned, too aggressive to respond to standard treatments, it was decided, that Sophia, her sister, and Sarah's sister and brother-in-law would leave emergently for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in order to try and save her life. At the time of the marathon, Sophia was just over 2 months post CAR-T cell therapy and 100% free of cancer cells.

Looking forward to reuniting with her niece and family, Sarah made arrangements to travel to Philadelphia and celebrate with them at our Believe Ball on October 28. However, a few weeks prior to departure, Sarah, her husband, and son all fell victim to a highly contagious case of the stomach flu. Not wishing to compromise Sophia's still weak immune system, they rescheduled their trip for a weekend in November. When Sarah learned that the Emily Whitehead Foundation had a team participating in the Philadelphia Marathon that same weekend, she sought the opportunity as destiny.

"One of the things that stands out in my memory is going to the race feeling as though you are somewhat alone in your endeavor, that nobody else knows what it's like to experience what you've experienced and what a child in your family has experienced," says Sarah.

"Even though I know that is far from the truth, I remember having a moment where I realized that every shirt in front of me or to the right or to the left or behind me, had a name printed on it but that runner was running for. Almost every person out there was running for someone—a child, a parent, a loved one, someone gone, someone struggling, someone who has survived. It was both beautiful and overwhelming all at the same time. Cancer is everywhere and we have to do something about it. That's why everybody was out there that day."