STACY SUCHODOLSKI'S life is centered on helping people. As an applicant assistance specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she works with victims of disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes and terrorism. So when Suchodolski decided to run a marathon, it was only natural that she found a way to use that experience to help people.
In June, Suchodolski heard about a fund-raising project sponsored by the Leukemia Society of America's Team in Training program - runners taking on the challenge of raising at least $4,000 each to participate in an Oct. 30 marathon in Dublin, Ireland.
Some of the money will help pay for the trip. The rest, at least 80 percent, will be donated to the Leukemia Society.
Suchodolski has been busy for several months, training for the marathon, raising money and learning more about leukemia. Working toward her goal of completing the 26-mile race, she has followed a grueling training schedule.
And as a member of Team in Training, she has teamed up with a special partner, 7-year-old Nicholas Marriam of Edgewater, who was found last year to have leukemia.
Even though Nicholas can't run in the marathon, he is helping the cause by being Suchodolski's partner and offering moral support. His mother, Angel Marriam, videotaped a message from Nicholas for Suchodolski to watch when she gets discouraged, and the marathoner will wear Nicholas' name on her jersey when she runs the race.
Suchodolski wants people to be aware that leukemia is not just a disease, but a serious challenge faced by people such as Nicholas.
The fund raising has been a challenge. Suchodolski has written close to 100 letters to friends and relatives asking for their support. She has collected more than half of the money she needs and is busy raising the rest.
Last month, she got help, and a second race partner, from an unexpected source, the Internet.
Suchodolski's sister, Carey Suchodolski, is planning to marry soon and likes to share wedding ideas on the Wedding Channel online message board. One day, she saw a message from Heather Wilson, a cancer survivor from Florida whose husband is planning to run the Dublin marathon next year. Wilson was asking her Internet friends to support her husband's fund-raising efforts.
When Carey Suchodolski saw that message, she told Wilson that her sister was running the marathon this year. Stacy Suchodolski and Wilson became instant Internet buddies. Wilson has been a strong supporter of Stacy, giving her fund-raising ideas and encouragement, and contacting this newspaper to let people in the area know what Suchodolski is doing.
When Wilson's leukemia was diagnosed six years ago, doctors told her she would live only a few months. A weaker spirit might have given up, but Wilson proved the doctors wrong.
In the past six years, she not only has seen her disease go into remission, she has also gotten married (which is how she got into the habit of chatting on the Wedding Channel Web site). And she has been active in the search for a cure for leukemia. Her medical history keeps her from running, but she uses her energy to help other people in their efforts to fight leukemia and to share her story and spread her message: "Don't give up."
Wilson said she is strengthened by the selflessness shown by people such as Stacy Suchodolski, who help those they don't know.
But now, Suchodolski does know Wilson, if only through the Internet. Wilson is helping Suchodolski get to the Dublin marathon. And when Suchodolski runs, Wilson's name will be on her jersey along with Nicholas'.
People interested in contributing to Suchodolski's efforts can send a tax-deductible donation, payable to the Leukemia Society of America, to P.O. Box 1845, Hyattsville 20788.
Women's club open house
The Four Seasons Women's Club will hold an open house at Four Seasons Elementary School at 7:30 p.m. today during the group's first monthly meeting of the fall season. Women living in the Four Seasons neighborhood are invited to learn about the community activities sponsored by this club.
During the coming year, activities will include a bull and oyster roast, a trip to Lancaster, Pa., programs for the needy, a blood drive and a plant sale. All money earned by the club is given back to the community through scholarships and support of local needs.
Information: Alberta Baker, 410-672-5219.