“Going out on a hot day or a cold day or a snowy day is nothing compared to having to sit with your son in the crib getting chemotherapy..."

by Karen Price
NAME: Jodie Potter
FROM: Phillipsburg, PA
RUNS FOR: Emily Whitehead Foundation
EXPERIENCE This will be Jodie's second year as a charity coordinator
  and participant with the Pittsburgh Marathon Run for a Reason program.

When Jodie Potter learned back in 2010 that one of her daughter’s kindergarten classmates had cancer, she immediately felt all the emotions one experiences with such news: sadness that a child is ill, concern for her and her family and fear of what may come. 
Then, her mind went to that place it inevitably does for parents.

What if that happened to my child?

Not long after, it did.

Jodie’s 2-year-old son, the youngest of three children, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. What started as a cough that lingered too long turned out to be a tumor the size of a hockey puck behind the little boy’s right lung.

As the Potters reeled, it was the father of Emily Whitehead, the little girl in Jodie’s daughter’s class in Philipsburg, Pa., (Centre County), who called and told them, “Come to where we are,” at Penn State Hershey Medical Center Children's Hospital. Emily was there receiving in-patient treatment and her father had already spoken to her doctor, who said he’d be waiting for the Potters. 

Today, both Emily Whitehead and Corban Potter are cancer-free. 

Corban is now six and closing in on the five-year mark. Emily, who was five when she was diagnosed, is now 11 and has been in remission more than four years. 

In May, Jodie Potter will lead the fundraising team running for the Emily Whitehead Foundation. P3R and the DICK'S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon are thrilled to welcome the Emily Whitehead Foundation as one of our newest Run for A Reason charity partners. Our charity program raised more than $1.6 million in 2016 and since 2009 our partners have raised more than $9 million for local, national and international causes.

The Emily Whitehead Foundation is committed to raising funds for pediatric cancer research and to finding less toxic treatments for children battling cancer. After relapsing several times, Emily is alive today thanks to T-Cell therapy — she was the first child in the world to receive the therapy and it was also the first time it was used on her type of leukemia — and the foundation that bears her name seeks to promote that and other cutting-edge treatments. 

Jodie first began running for charity in the Pittsburgh Marathon with another group to benefit pediatric cancer research in 2012. After the Emily Whitehead Foundation incorporated in 2014, she began investigating opportunities to raise money for them through running and they were part of the Pittsburgh Marathon for the first time in 2015. 

As both Emily and Corban underwent treatment, the families grew close. Having the support and understanding of others who know what it’s like to have a child fighting cancer is a tremendous help. Today, Emily and Jodie’s daughter Manna, also 11, are best buddies. 

Running helped Jodie deal with the stress of her son’s illness, she said. Since he’s been in remission, logging miles for charity has kept the sport a priority in her life. 

“Going out on a hot day or a cold day or a snowy day is nothing compared to having to sit with your son in the crib getting chemotherapy, so I’m thankful for the opportunity to get out and do that so another mom doesn’t have to,” she said.

Jodie’s Tips for Fundraising:

“I’ve turned just about anything into a fundraiser,” she said. “I have a hard time making my brain stop.” Jodie’s best advice is to pick something that you’re interested in and try to think of a way to turn it into a fundraiser.

  • If you’re someone who likes to bake, hold a bake sale. If you’re artistic, hold a paint night or a craft night. Her father and husband once built a picnic table then raised $2,000 selling chances to win the finished product. 
  • “I know one girl who loves training on hills and posted on Facebook that she was taking bids for hill sprints and were asking people to pledge however many dollars per hill sprint,” Jodie said. “It’s brilliant, because it motivated her to run more and the more she ran, the more people gave.”
  • Manna Potter has also gotten involved in both running and fundraising. She’s started doing 5Ks and already has her own fundraising page for the 2017 Pittsburgh Marathon 5K sponsored by UPMC Health Plan/UPMC Sports Medicine Pittsburgh. Over the summer, as the family traveled to bike races, Manna made woven potholders then sold them for $5 each at the races.

"Everybody can do something." Jodie said. 

Click here to view Jodie's 2017 fundraiser.


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