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Parkites run in honor of cancer survivor

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff

Last December, Parkite Sherri Weaver had an idea.

She had recently learned that proceeds from the Salt Lake City Marathon would be benefiting the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. As a runner who had already completed a marathon one year earlier she was eager to participate, so she started rounding up other interested friends in Park City and began training for the race.

"I personally chose this crusade, because there are so many lengths to keeping active and healthy to avoid cancer," said Weaver, who also liked the local aspect of the chosen charity.

Two weeks later, at a Super Bowl party she started talking with Dominic Lewinsohn and her idea evolved. Lewinsohn, a former Park City restaurateur and well-loved member of the community, had recently had his nose removed and surgery at the base of his skull due to squamous carcinoma or cancer of the nasal passages. The surgeries were two steps in a long process of treatment that originally began in August for Lewinsohn. August was also the same month that his wife, Olivia, learned that they were expecting their first child.

Once Weaver was aware of Lewinsohn’s situation she asked him if her marathon training group could shift their focus and train in his honor.

"It suddenly hit home," Weaver said. " He’s a friend of all of us. If we can somehow do it for him and people like him, so others don’t have to go through this."

Lewinsohn thought it was a great idea.

"I thought the idea was brilliant," said Lewinsohn. Obviously the Huntsman Cancer Institute has become my favorite charity and any way I can help, I’m happy to help."

The group became the Park City Cancer Crusaders and now meets for training throughout the week and will hold fundraisers for the cause in the next few weeks. The Crusaders are a mix of cancer survivors, some who have lost family members or friends to the disease. Most of the team has run one or two marathons before, while others are beginners. Two members will run the 5K instead of the full marathon.

"I’m was always amazed at how many people’s lives are touched by cancer," Lewinsohn said.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is one of the top cancer treatment and research facilities in the Intermountain West. The Crusaders are part of the larger marathon charity, Hometown Heroes, designed to benefit the HCI. The Hometown Heroes are a mix of honored patients and runners who help support one another through training and fundraising to help make the event a success for the HCI. The Crusaders train with the larger group every Saturday. Participants must commit to raising a predetermined amount of money and promise to spend no more than 25-percent of their total funds raised on expenses. The remainder is given to the HCI.

For Weaver and the rest of her team, running as part of the Hometown Heroes has given them new meaning.

"We are runners. You are always looking for a way to benefit yourself and greater challenges," Weaver said. "Now we’re doing something a little less selfish and a little more for society. We can’t go out and cure cancer but this is something we can do."

Weaver said in her first marathon last year, she just wanted to finish the race, but this year she is inspired.

"Now we are running for a greater cause. He’s our inspiration," Weaver said. "I feel so much better about this marathon than the last."

The Crusaders have already begun their fundraising. They have created a Park City Cancer Crusaders website with links to each team member’s personal page. Each person, including Dom, has a few paragraphs on how cancer has touched his or her life, their thoughts on the race and an area where people can make a donation.

On Saturday, May 6, the Crusaders will hold a garage sale at 4130 Hilltop Drive in Jeremy Ranch from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Weaver hopes that everyone in Park City will stop by.

"We’re building together a sense of community. We’re all on this earth together," Weaver said starting to choke up.

Lewinsohn has organized a fund raising evening on June 1 at Buona Vita restaurant across from the Kimball Art Center just off of Main Street. He used his connections in the restaurant business to convince the owner to agree to a night where 50-percent of all the money made from patrons that night will go to the Crusaders cause.

Lewinsohn has been at the HCI every four weeks since his last surgery and has been cancer-free since February. He was also fitted for a prosthetic nose by Dr. Brandon Bentz at the Institute. He is hoping that he can stay healthy for his baby who is due to arrive any day now and he says he plans to run in next year’s marathon when he is a bit stronger.

This year, Lewinsohn, Olivia and their new baby boy plan to be at the finishline of the marathon cheering on the Crusaders.

"It’s a very optimistic group," Lewinsohn said. "It’s a time of celebration and we’ll have a grand time with it. We’re all very positive about it."

To visit the Crusaders website, log onto http://www.saltlakemarathon.com/exec/salt/cause.cfm?publicationID=217 . To read more about the Hometown Heroes program and the marathon visit http://www.saltlakemarathon.com . To learn more about the HCI, visit http://www.huntsmancancer.org

Lewinsohn hopes that anyone interested will join his family to cheer on the Park City Crusaders at the Salt Lake City Marathon. They will be waiting in the Hometown Heroes tent at the end of the race. The marathon starts at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday, June 3.


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