A group of runners traveling across the country to raise money to fight sarcoma stopped in Bel Air Monday, to meet a woman who recently lost her husband to the rare form of cancer and visit a local running supply store during their journey from San Francisco to Ocean City.
"Sarcoma's an orphan's cancer because nobody has really picked it up and given attention to it," said Laura Vest of Bel Air, whose husband, Jason, died on June 15 after battling undifferentiated soft tissue sarcoma for more than a year.
He was 29 years old.
The National Institutes of Health defines a rare, or "orphan" disease, as one that "affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States at any given time."
Sarcoma makes up about 1 percent of adult cancer cases and 15 percent of child cancer cases, according to the website of the Sarcoma Foundation of America, which is a partner of Miles 2 Give. The proceeds from Miles 2 Give's cross-country journey will benefit the Sarcoma Foundation, which is headquartered in Montgomery County.
About 50,000 people live with sarcoma, which afflicts body tissue or bone, at "any one time," the foundation's website stated; 14,000 people are diagnosed every year, and 6,000 people die from sarcoma annually.
"This was always our mission, to get the word out, and Miles 2 Give has such a public platform to do that," Vest said.
Vest met with Miles 2 Give founder Landon Cooper and his three traveling companions, Ryan Priest, John McKay and Ryan Bonhardt, at Charm City Run in downtown Bel Air late Monday morning.
The group left San Francisco Feb. 14 and has been traveling across the nation, running each day to raise awareness, plus meeting with doctors and researchers who specialize in sarcoma and highlighting people who have been affected by the disease.
Priest is a runner who also serves as tour director; McKay is a runner and tour videographer and Bonhardt is the tour's online director.
They arrived in Bel Air Monday in a Winnebago outfitted with Miles 2 Give's logo. The stop at Charm City Run was one of several the runners made in the Baltimore area Monday as their scheduled July 20 arrival in Ocean City approaches.
"This tour has really opened the shutters of my mind and given me the vision to not only [find] my greater purpose, but also contribute to more treatment options and eventually a cure to this evil disease," Cooper said.
Miles 2 Give is headquartered in Utah; Cooper founded the organization in honor of his friend Ashley Davis, who fought sarcoma from when she was diagnosed in November 2009 to when she passed away in April of 2011 at age 23.
Vest's late husband, who was a runner, was a supporter of Miles 2 Give during his 14-month and 14-day battle with cancer. He received a call on April 1 from the group; Miles 2 Give has dedicated each day of their trip to people to people who have either survived the disease, are battling it or have succumbed to it.
Those people are highlighted on the group's blog on its website, http://www.miles2give.org.
Vest worked with the Miles 2 Give members and Charm City Run to set up their visit to they could pick up some new running gear.
"Charm City does a lot of things for charity, a lot of things for cancer, so I thought they might be interested," she said.
Charm City Run operates stores in Bel Air, Annapolis, Baltimore, Clarksville and Timonium; each store hosted a fun run in late April to raise money for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
On Monday, the Bel Air store donated four T-shirts with the Charm City Run logo to the group. Store manager Brad Viers said he hopes to provide greater support in the future.
"Hopefully we can at least support [them] in the same way next year, if not more," he said.
Miles 2 Give is also on Facebook and Twitter; visit http://www.curesarcoma.org for more information on the Sarcoma Foundation of America.