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Two CVM Veterinarians
Join Team to Battle Cancer

Keegan Burke GrantVeterinarians usually spend their time caring for the lives of our four-legged friends. However, these two veterinarians have found the time to save the lives of humans as well. University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine faculty members Drs. Marie Kerl and Philip Johnson are training to run the 2008 Chicago Marathon Oct. 12 with the Team in Training program through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society started in 1949 by the de Villiers, whose son Robert died at the age of 16 from leukemia. In 1988, Bruce Cleland formed a team to run the New York City Marathon to raise money for the society and honor his daughter Georgia, a leukemia survivor. They called themselves the “Team in Training.” This year TNT is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The first team raised $322,000, and during the past 20 years that number has grown to more than $850 million for cancer research. The program, which started out as 38 runners the very first year, has seen more than 360,000 participants.

Dr. Marie KerlThis is the second year both Kerl and Johnson will run in the Chicago Marathon for TNT. The two have a common interest that keeps them training – Keegan. Keegan Burke Grant lost his battle with cancer at the age of 8 in the summer of 2006. He was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 6, and his TNT Team was formed soon after his diagnosis. Keegan loved his team and he would attend events and training when he was able to.

“He kept tally of the money his team raised, sure that he was going to make a difference and cure cancer,” recalled his mother, Mimi Noonan. “Once, he told another kid, newly diagnosed with leukemia, ‘hey man, I got a whole team working to cure your cancer’.”

Keegan’s mantra became “Happiness is a choice,” his mother said.

Keegan’s mother is a close friend of both Dr. Kerl and Dr. Johnson, and it is in memory of Keegan and others who have battled cancer that the two are running this marathon for TNT. “That Marie and Philip are willing to do this for Keegan is a testament to the effect he had on everyone who knew him. He had an incredible spirit, and it lives on in everyone who met him,” Noonan said.

Training for a marathon is a daunting task for anybody. Juggling the demands of their positions at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital while finding time to train, demands a great deal of commitment from the two veterinarians.

“Balancing time between work and training is challenging,” Johnson said. “My work often (at this time of the year) requires me to be here in the teaching hospital for long hours standing and walking on the concrete all day – it’s quite hard to run at the end of the day.” Although the middle of the day is hot and humid, he said he finds it easier to run during those times. He also has more time to run when he is not on clinic assignment.

“Training for a marathon is completely doable – it just takes time and sticking to a training plan, which Team in Training provides for us,” Kerl said. Running relieves stress and is a good source of exercise, she said. Kerl finds it best to run in the mornings before the muggy mid-Missouri temperatures hit their peak. She has a group that she runs with on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 5:30. The closer the two get to the race, the longer their runs become. The longest run before the race is a 20-mile distance, which is set up through the TNT training schedule.

Cindy Fotti is the local TNT coach. Her job is to supervise and inspire the runners and walkers in the area by creating a schedule for them and keeping them motivated. “People like Marie and Philip don’t need my help much past that because they have no problem remembering why they are raising money and training. Whenever I say ‘remember the reason’ to them it just brings a smile to their faces because they are very aware of why they are doing this,” Fotti said.

Participants raising funds each year to support the marathon and cancer research must meet a minimum target. When that amount is met, TNT will pay for travel expenses and the race entry fee for the participant. Johnson has a goal of $3,400 to raise, while Kerl is working toward a goal of $5,000. They gather that support by sending letters to family, friends, colleagues and other contacts. They also have individual Web sites through TNT that allow for people interested to donate through a secure website. There are also opportunities for organizations to sponsor individuals or whole teams.

They also have individual Web sites through TNT that allow people to make secure donations. There are also opportunities for organizations to sponsor individuals or whole teams. Contact Kerl or Johnson for more information.

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Last Update: February 29, 2012