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Dressed in bright orange from her tutu to her racing flats – you can’t miss Jamie Graves when she’s running. And while the outfit provides opportunities for Jamie, Director of State and Local Affairs at BP and a member of the Kidney Cancer Association’s Board of Directors, to bring awareness to the KCA’s work, it’s also a reminder that she’s running 26.2 miles in celebration of the 26 years she had with her dad.

We spoke with Jamie about how she honors her dad by supporting the KCA – and her efforts to benefit other families facing kidney cancer.

Jamie and her husband Jon run the Chicago Marathon every year in honor of her dad.

Tell us how you chose your fundraising activity.

“Run like the wind, Jamie!” My dad’s voice would bellow across the park during high school cross-country races. This phrase was given meaning to him by a developmentally delayed boy he coached on the soccer field who, despite physical and mental challenges, would joyously yell, “I’m going to run like the wind for you, Mr. Graves!” To dad, this was a statement of having courage and showing heart – even in the face of overwhelming adversity.  

Dad put up a hell of a fight against kidney cancer and he faced chemo, radiation, surgeries, and finally hospice with heart and a wicked sense of humor. It’s with his tenacity and strength in mind that I tackle each mile of the marathon to benefit other families facing this disease.

What would you share with others who are thinking of getting involved in community-based fundraising?

Dad always said, “it’s nice to be nice.” And raising funds for the KCA is my way of giving back to an organization that provided tremendous support and resources to my family during his 7-year battle.

I’d encourage anyone interested in fundraising to find an activity or event that is personal and will bring you joy. Do what you love in celebration of the person you love!

The KCA team makes creating an online fundraising campaign simple and easy – they provide me with the resources and tools I need to be successful. Each year I send an email to family and friends telling them about the race, and I also post information on my social media accounts. I wear bright orange when I run to bring visibility to the cause, and I love talking about why I run (and my passion for the KCA) with my running team.

I think it’s also important to note, both as a fundraiser and a Board member for the KCA, I’m proud that our organization has consistently achieved a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. We know that every dollar raised has been in support of improving and saving lives – and we don’t take that trust for granted. I’m particularly excited about the $1.3M the KCA is awarding again this year to kidney cancer researchers through our Young Investigator and Advanced Discovery Awards.

How are you modifying your activities this year to accommodate social distancing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic?

While my approach to fundraising won’t change as I’ll still connect with donors via email and social media – many races have moved to a virtual format. Instead of competing with 45,000 fellow runners and being cheered on by 1.5 million spectators, this year my husband and I may be completing 26.2 miles together in our neighborhood.  

In addition to the race formats changing, my husband and I are also training differently. As our safety and the safety of our family, friends, and community is paramount, we wear face coverings (I’ve found Buff Coolnet UV+ headwear to be the easiest for running), stay more than 6 feet away from any other individuals, and try to run in less populated areas early in the day when paths are not crowded. We also carry our own water and nutrition with us.

While I miss running with my friends, we still connect via Zoom each week to keep each other updated on our running progress. I encourage anyone considering an endurance competition as a fundraiser to find a group that shares your passion – they will be your strongest advocates, your accountability buddies, and your biggest champions as you work toward your goal.

Create a fundraiser of your own or click here to support Jamie on her run this year.

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