Racing for a Good Cause

Whether it's to honor a loved one or help raise funds for others, racing for a cause can be a rewarding experience.

When Lauren Labbe made a list of goals she wanted to accomplish by age 30, running a marathon was at the top. When she heard about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team In Training program, she thought, why make the milestone only about me?

Labbe decided to pay tribute to her much-loved grandfather who died of Hodgkin's lymphoma while also testing her physical and emotional will in the marathon.

"I wanted to do something -- not just to honor my grandfather but also to help others battling cancer," Labbe says.

So she signed up with Team In Training in her hometown of Baton Rouge, L.A., completed the five-month training program, and finished the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco with a smile stretched ear to ear.

In the process she raised nearly $4,000 for blood cancer research.

Thanks to the help of her Team In Training-sponsored coaches and the support of her fellow purple-clad teammates, by race day Labbe was physically prepared to take on 26.2 miles. What she hadn't anticipated was the outpouring of support she received.

"A friend of my family said he had a check for me. Most checks I received were for $25 to $50. I was speechless when he wrote a check for $500," recalls Labbe, a high school English teacher. The family friend planned to use the experience to set an example for his young daughter, he said, and show her how important it was to help others.

Labbe, now 31, is continuing her fundraising efforts for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by running the Nike San Francisco half marathon in September and the 2006 Maui Marathon.

And she's by no means alone. The number of charity athletic events -- and the number of people participating in them -- has exploded in recent years, giving active and socially minded folks races they can feel doubly good about doing.

Whether you're a runner, triathlete or snowboarder who wants to join the fight against cancer, diabetes or multiple sclerosis, there's an organization and event out there to help you make a difference.

Team In Training

Take individual sports like running, cycling and triathlon, enlist teams of people to train together, dress them in garish purple, ask them to raise funds for a good cause, and what happens? You start a fundraising revolution.

It started in 1988 when Bruce Cleland of Rye, N.Y. formed a team to train for the New York City Marathon and raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of his daughter, a leukemia survivor.

The team of 38 runners raised $322,000 for the Society's Westchester/Hudson Valley Chapter. Since then, 265,000 team members have raised more than $595 million.

In exchange for fundraising, Team In Training participants receive travel and accommodations to their chosen destination, entry fees, coaching and training plans, fundraising materials, and even a personalized Web site to make donating as easy as the click of a mouse.

Event locations: Choose from 60 events in the United States and abroad, including some of the most popular marathons, triathlons and century rides.

Distances: Half marathons, marathons, centuries and primarily Olympic-distance triathlons, with some sprint and a few half Ironmans.

Dates: Ongoing

Fundraising details: Fundraising minimums vary from event to event. About 75 percent of funds go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for research and patient services. The other 25 percent is allocated for transportation and other race-related costs.

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