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Photo courtesy of Kristin Berney
Brenda Ladun Conquer Cancer Run 2014
Kristin Berney, right, is associate executive director of the American Cancer Society’s Birmingham Chapter. She is pictured with her mother, Angie McDonald, before McDonald’s death more than a decade ago.
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Brenda Ladun Conquer Cancer Run 2014 Brenda
10th Annual Brenda Ladun Conquer Cancer Run
March 1 • St. Vincent's One Nineteen
7 a.m. — Packet Pick Up and Day of Registration opens
7:30 a.m. — Vendor's Booths open
7:45 a.m. — Welcome and Warm Up
8 a.m. — 5K Race start
9 a.m. — 1 Mile Fun Run start
9:30 a.m. — Post Race Party &Awards Ceremony
9:45 a.m. — Survivor Celebration & Balloon Release
As the Brenda Ladun Conquer Cancer Run prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Hoover Sun looks at where some of the people involved in the race found their motivation to aid others in the fight.
All four of Sarah Salzmann’s grandparents battled cancer around the same time.
It was a decade ago, and Salzmann was 12 years old. Their fights were all different, suffering from lung, ovarian and thyroid cancers. She remembers most of all what it was like for her mother, helpless as these despicable diseases consumed her parents.
“It’s been 10 years, and it’s still hard to talk about it,” Salzmann said through tears. “As a child, you don’t want to see your parents hurt like that. Think about your own mom and what that would look like. All I wanted was to take her pain away.”
Though she might have tried, she never could. But what little difference she made became a theme in her life. In high school, she discovered an insatiable urge — a passion, she said — to be involved in a cause greater than herself.
Five years removed from her grandparents’ deaths, she signed up as a volunteer with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. She loved it, and five years after that she found herself knocking on the door of the American Cancer Society.
Salzmann, a 22-year-old Hoover resident, recently joined the ACS Junior Executive Board of Birmingham, and when time came for her to choose which local event she wanted to work on, she remembered how much she enjoyed working with Race for the Cure.
“When they asked us what committees we wanted to work on, I saw the Conquer Cancer Run and dove in,” she said.
Salzmann is in her first year as a Brenda Ladun Conquer Cancer Run committee member, and her current role is the annual giving coordinator at UAB. She said the experience has been thrilling, and she’s thoroughly enjoyed reaching out to the community.
“I really want to find a cure,” she said. “It’s a nasty disease, and no family should have to go through it. If raising money helps one person avoid the pain, it’s definitely worth it.”
Kristin Berney had been 16 for two weeks when her mother died.
Angie McDonald received the stage 3 ovarian cancer diagnosis when Berney was 13. The disease afforded Berney and her mother two and a half more years together. Then, 11 years ago, the inevitable happened.
“I don’t ever really remember it being something where we thought she would beat it,” Berney said. “It was always described to us that she was going through treatment and remission was possible, but more than likely, she would lose the battle.”
It wasn’t in McDonald’s nature to give in, though. Berney led special cheers for her mother on chemotherapy days, and McDonald was a fixture on her daughter’s Relay for Life team, which held its first event the year after McDonald’s diagnosis.
“I felt like they were doing it for her,” said Berney, who participated in the event with her mom during their final two years together. “Ever since then, I’ve been raising money for the American Cancer Society and doing so in her honor.”
By her senior year of college, Berney, then president of Colleges Against Cancer, chaired the Relay for Life event at The University of Alabama. Under her leadership, Alabama raised $65,000, which broke the record for the university’s prior Relay for Life fundraising efforts.
Berney graduated in 2009 and set down a path that would lead her to a full-time job with the Birmingham chapter of ACS. And in her role as associate executive director, she met Hoover resident and local TV personality Brenda Ladun Bell.
After surviving a three-year fight with breast cancer, Hoover resident and news anchor Brenda Ladun added a mission to her life. Her idea, formed in collaboration with ABC 33/40 General Manger Mike Murphy, was to create something fun and encouraging for cancer survivors and their families.
She wanted to give them hope, and in 2004 she found a way.
“When you go through cancer, it can be hard and depressing,” Ladun said. “But we wanted then just as we do now for this race to be the opposite.”
Her event, the Conquer Cancer Run, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The event, which features free food, games and activities for children, free health checks, low cost mammograms and important information about many different types of cancers, is slated for March 1 at St. Vincent’s One Nineteen.
“It is a place where you can come and receive a word of hope while also raising money and being a part of the search for a cure,” Ladun said. “That’s what’s exciting to me.”
The race has seen explosive growth in recent years, shooting up from just over a hundred participants to nearly 1,000 in 2013.
For more, visit conquercancerrun.org.