HAWLEY - Collecting donations for melanoma research

 By Katie Collins News Eagle Reporter

HAWLEY - With great determination and a goal that is within arm’s reach, Jocelyn Gebhardt has a little more than two weeks before she participates in St. Luke’s Half Marathon in honor of her mom, Teri. On a path to educate and inform people about melanoma, Gebhardt will run the 13 mile race to raise awareness about the disease that killed her mom six years ago. The support has been steadily rolling in, online and off, with donations nearing Gebhardt’s $2,500 goal for the Melanoma Research Foundation.

Gebhardt has been fundraising since January, ultimately though, even after the race, she will continue to raise funds. For this race though, she said $5,000 would be a nice amount to actually stop at.

Gebhardt was just 16 years old; when her mom was diagnosed with stage three melanoma in 2004. Stage five, Gebhardt explained, is death. Teri was told she had just six months to live. But, she did not give up, in the three years that followed her diagnosis, Teri continued to live her life, being a mom that loved people and making others happy, Gebhardt said of her mom. Teri would even attend Gebhardt’s lacrosse games, often bringing food for her daughter’s teammates. Gebhardt said it was hard though, because she realized that her mom was traveling the distance to see her compete, even though she was fighting a terrible disease. Teri passed away during Gebhardt’s freshman year of college. Throughout college though, Gebhardt continued to play lacrosse, she said because, "I knew every time I played, I played for her."

While her mom was ill, Gebhardt said Teri’s handling of her disease taught Gebhardt a lot because every day she got up, it was like any other day as she would clean the house, cook dinner and just live her life. Even going on a vacation to Ocean City, Maryland and lying on the beach, "because that’s how she was, she really didn’t let life stop," Gebhardt said with a smile.

Gebhardt is doing this now, she said, because she wants to keep Teri’s spirit alive. It took her awhile, "to accept that she was gone, you’re never over the grief," she explained. Gebhardt was inspired to run this race because a few years back, her sister Chelsea ran the full Chicago marathon, raising $2,500 for the American Cancer Society. Eventually, with her sister, the women would like to run in a full marathon together.

Part of why Gebhardt is participating in the race, she said, is because a good number of people aren’t aware of the dangers of melanoma. Gebhardt said she is annoyed that people go tanning because, "you’re signing yourself up for disaster." Aside from the fundraising, Gebhardt said educating people about the disease is, "something I was put here to do, everything happens for a reason," she added.

Today, Gebhardt has plans with her sister to create a foundation in their mom’s name. Through their own foundation, Gebhardt said people will do activities that her mom enjoyed, like attending sporting events or having cook-offs.

For weeks, Gebhardt has been following a training program created by Hal Higdon, a well-known marathon runner. So far, in training, Gebhardt has run 42 miles. Today, she is comfortable running 11 miles and the miles actually go quickly. Running, Gebhardt said, has become very therapeutic for her.

Since she was a child, Gebhardt and her family would visit Woodloch Pines during the first week in August. Today, she lives in the region, working at Woodloch Lodges and Woodloch Pines. Throughout the winter months, Gebhardt trained on a treadmill in the sports complex at Woodloch Springs. She said it was really hard and boring completing the miles on the treadmill, but now that the weather is nice, she runs to work and around the surrounding area.

Of the support she is receiving, Gebhardt said, "it’s great," because there are people donating that she hasn’t spoken to in years, but she knows them from when she was a guest with her family at Woodloch. Online, one family wrote, "A beautiful tribute to a beautiful person!" Another wrote, "I'll always remember your Mom's smiling face when she came to see you at your first lacrosse game. She was wonderful & so are you! Love you!" The messages continued, "We miss her still as she taught us so much about loving deeply and living passionately. She is fiercely proud of you and Chelsea!!" On and on they go, saying the same things that Gebhardt had to say of her mom. Not knowing some of the donors, Gebhardt said it is great to see the effect her mom had on people all these years later and, "I want to have the same effect on people that are in my life," she said.

With a little more than two weeks before the race, Gebhardt said she feels ready because she can comfortably run 11 miles and so, "my mentality is, what is 2.1 more," she said with confidence. Even with her long runs, she said her legs are no longer tired and she actually feels like she could run further, but she doesn’t because of the training program she’s following.

The marathon is scheduled April 28th, in Alelntown.

In the race, Gebhardt will actually be running with a friend and together their goal is to complete the race under two hours. The race will be in Allentown and the course moves from pavement, through a park with 13 live bands playing at each mile. Four of the miles will be on gravel and the rest on pavement. It is the gravel that Gebhardt said she thinks will be the toughest.

Her main focus, is to bring awareness to how serious melanoma is, "how deadly it is," she explained. In terms of her mom though, Gebhardt said she is running for her because she knows she’ll be with her every step of the way.

If interested in donating, visit

http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/JocelynGebhardt/MFM-Individuals-2013#.URb5Zs0Fb2E.facebook or send a donation to Melanoma Research Foundation, 1411 K Street, NW Suite 800, Washington, DC 20005. In the memo line, write Jocelyn Gebhardt’s Miles for Melanoma fundraising.