CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Former Harvard women's soccer player Kelcey Harrison '10 has been running across the country in order to raise money and awareness for lung cancer research. Her run began in New York City on July 29 at a pace of 30 miles a day with the finish line 3,500 miles away in San Francisco. She has made it all the way to New Mexico and is close to completing her goal!
Calling the cross country marathon The Great Lung Run, Harrison hopes to honor her childhood friend, Jillian Costello, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 and passed away in 2010. Costello was a scholar athlete at University of California Berkley and was named the 2010 PAC-10 Women's Athlete of the Year. All funds raised by the run will go to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.
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By Kelcey Harrison
I graduated Harvard class of 2010 with a BA in Psychology and secondary in Government. I played soccer for three years and ran the Boston marathon in my senior year, my time qualifying me for the
following year. I lived in Adams house.
I was doing an internship with the International PR Department at PUMA Athletica in Boston and working at the Harvard gyms during the summer of 2009 (between my junior and senior years) when my childhood friend, Jillian Costello, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was 21 years old, a non-smoker and varsity coxswain at Cal Berkeley. She continued going to school and rowing with the Varsity crew team during our senior year. She got a 4.0 and many awards during her senior year including the PAC-10 Athlete of the Year. She also began working closely with the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, based in San Francisco. She aimed to break the stigma that lung cancer is strictly a smoker's disease and that patients have brought the diagnosis upon themselves. The survival rate of lung cancer patients has not changed in over 40 years and is the number one cancer killer, killing more people per year than breast, prostate, colon, melanoma, and kidney cancers combined.
After her death a group of young people, mostly her friends as well as young lung cancer survivors and patients who were involved with BJALCF, came together to form Jill's Legacy, an advisory board to BJALCF. Our aim is to encourage the young generation to recognize that anyone can get lung cancer and to mobilize a force to demand change. This change will only come once we break the stigma, after which funding will follow and then more research and increased survival rates. I am a member of the board, but found it hard to feel I was contributing from New York where I have lived and worked since graduating from Harvard.
The idea to run across the country occurred to me about six months ago and I could not shake the idea. Once I had told a few people and contacted our Jill's Legacy Director, Darby Anderson, there was novturning back. Now we are less than three weeks from departure and I am so excited to get going. I will leave from Breezy Point, N.Y. and average about 30 miles/day until I reach San Francisco. It is essentially a straight shot across the country, until I come to the Rockies at which point I will head South through New Mexico and Arizona before turning north again to go through Vegas and cross into California. I hope to meet a lot of interesting people along the way and learn some things about the country and myself as I spread the word about lung cancer and get more people involved in our cause. Along the route I will be hosted by people who have learned about my run and offered their help and I will stay in hotels as others have offered to "sponsor" me by paying for rooms along the way. I hope to be joined by friends, family, and anyone else who supports the cause along the way.