Professor helps cancer society save lives

Mercedes Aguilar

The Leukemia ‘ Lymphoma Society chose “Twenty Years of Saving Lives” as the new slogan for their program, Team in Training.

Mary Schaffer, an assistant professor in the department of Cinema ‘ Television Arts, has helped the organization save lives via the program for four years.

At first a participant, Schaffer later became a mentor and a coach for the organization’s walking marathon.

Schaffer raised $2,500 for every marathon she participated in and also organized car washes that raised $300 to $500.

During a meeting at the Woodland Hills Branch Library on Jan. 12, TNT held a recruitment session where about 33 people signed up and helped raise money. Guest speaker Laura Maloney spoke about her struggle as a cancer survivor. Maloney said that she joined the Leukemia ‘ Lymphoma Society after battling cancer without health insurance. Now Maloney says she is just glad she is around to see her three kids graduate.

Tim Stafford, senior campaign manager of the San Fernando Valley marathon, said the organization is comprised of more than 340,000 participants.

The Leukemia ‘ Lymphoma Society began 20 years ago with Bruce Cleland, a father who wanted to raise money in order to save his daughter’s life from leukemia, said Stafford. Now it trains participants to choose from one of the three activities: a marathon, triathlon or cycling.

TNT is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year; the society has fundraised $800 million since 1988 and hopes to reach its target goal of $1 billion by the end of the year.

Sue Baker, 62, has been a participant of TNT since 2006 and is now a mentor for the program. Baker tells her stories of being a participant to newcomers and answers any questions they have about the program.

While Baker was doing a marathon in Santa Clarita she was informed about TNT, but she didn’t think she could raise the money required, she said. But after a few months she decided to join TNT.

Her husband didn’t believe she could raise the money at first, Baker said. She decided to send one of her first solicitation letters to her husband’s work place. He told her they weren’t going to send her anything but to both their surprise, Baker received her first check for $100 toward the fundraiser.

“It’s not about you,” Baker told her husband. “It’s about a cause.”

The cause seems to be why people join TNT, but for some people at the meeting it’s the idea of getting fit that also motivates them to join, said Caitlin Nicholas, a 25-year-old graduate from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“It’s a win-win (situation),” Schaffer said about working with TNT. “I am in really good shape and I am totally addicted to it.”

Nicholas heard about TNT when she was in Santa Cruz, but since she knew she would be returning home she never joined, she said. She has never done a marathon before and has only run by herself.

Nicholas said her goal is to finish the marathon for TNT and make friends.

Even though TNT will be celebrating its 20-year anniversary, Schaffer will not be participating this season, she said.

“You have to make a choice, but my priority (is) the students at CSUN,” she said. “It’s a no brainer.” She will still be supporting TNT at the events, though she will not coach.

For those who are interested in joining the Leukemia ‘ Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, meetings will be held on Jan. 24 in the Northridge REI store at 18605 Devonshire St. and on Jan. 25 in the Lockheed Room at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank at 501 S. Buena Vista St. All meetings are at 6:30 p.m. For more information can be found at www.teamintraining.org.