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Local athlete raises thousands for cancer patients in Henry

 

By Alice Cunningham
Times Correspondent 

  Inspiration comes in many forms as evidenced by ultra-runner and Locust Grove resident, Jen Edmondson Hanekamp, who recently completed a grueling 132K run beginning in Milledgeville on December 30 and ending at the McDonough Square, on New Year’s Eve.

L to r: Joanie Whitsun, President of Henry County Cancer Services accepts a check for $6,747 from Jen Edmondson Hanekamp, a marathon runner who raised the money in a 132K run from Milledgeville to the McDonough Square.

                                                  Photo by Alice Cunningham

  She was welcomed by throngs of jubilant revelers and well-wishers, who were on the Square for the annual Geranium Drop.

  Her odyssey began earlier this year, after several friends and family members were diagnosed with various forms of cancer; she felt inspired and determined to help in some way.

  While researching available options, she discovered a shocking statistic: on average of 132 Georgians are diagnosed with some form of cancer every day. Armed with this information, and driven by her passion to make a difference, Hanekamp, 39, committed to a personal goal of completing a 132K in honor of each of those individuals.

  With the support of her husband Kenny, and their four children, Hayli, 22, Kayla, 20, Megan, 17 and Chandler, 14, Hanekamp began training in late June. Her regimen included getting proper nutrition through healthy eating, vitamin supplementation and daily running. She said that each day she pushed herself to run even further than the day before.

As ultra-marathon runner, Dean Karnazes stated: “The human body has limitations; the human spirit is boundless.” And so it was with Hanekamp, as she forged ahead and said her endeavors were fueled by her burning desire to help others.

  Hanekamp launched her website, www.makingthemilescount.com, at the beginning of her journey where she shared her mission and began accepting pledges to be donated to Henry County Cancer Services. Her initial goal was to raise $10,000 for the organization.     

  Since 2002, Henry County Cancer Services, a non-profit, all volunteer organization, has helped provide local cancer patients with vital services such as assistance with hospital bills, co-pays, medications, and mileage reimbursement for treatments. They also assist with nutritional supplements and other services. The organization’s main source of funding is through donations. 

  According to Joanie Whitsun, President of Henry County Cancer Services, 98 percent of all funds raised goes directly to the individual needs of local cancer patients, with just two percent going toward administrative costs.

  “A hundred percent of all donations stay in Henry County,” said Whitsun. “However, there’s still so much work that needs to be done. We currently have twenty-four people on a waiting list for our services. So, donations are always needed and very much appreciated.”

  Although Hanekamp is an “ultra runner,” which is someone who successfully completes a minimum of a 50K, she had never taken on something of this magnitude. One hundred and thirty two kilometers is the equivalent of a little more than 82 miles, or like running the Peachtree Road Race 13 times in a single day.

  As an added motivator in her latest journey, the names of “cancer heroes” were submitted by their loved ones and placed on signs that were erected along the route Hanekamp took from Milledgeville to McDonough.

  “I derived so much inspiration from seeing those names as I ran toward them, and realized that even though I was totally exhausted, I had a finish line; unlike so many of these cancer heroes who struggle with this disease daily,” said Hanekamp.

  Other than the donations, she said the most fulfilling part was, “getting to know these cancer heroes and hearing their stories.”

Hanekamp said she wants everyone to know and “to realize that one person can make a difference.”        

  “What surprised me the most was the incredible amount of support I received from the community, via messages, emails and all of the people who leaned out of their car windows, and cheered me on as I ran,” she said. “We all take so much for granted and it’s been a very humbling experience.” 

  Although Henekamp came short of her $10,000 goal, she said she is very grateful for the $6,747 she raised and is looking ahead toward future goals. Her plans include applying to medical school to become a physician’s assistant, and another, more challenging ultra-run to raise even more money for worthy causes. For more information on Hanekamp, find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jenedmondsonhanekamp.

  For more information, upcoming events or to make a donation to Henry County Cancer Services, please visit www.henrycountycancerservices.com or call 770-288-6510.

 

 

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