The fight against lung cancer has always been personal for Jill Feldman of Deerfield.
Before she was 30, she had lost her mother, father, aunt and two grandparents to the disease. Looking for a way to fight, she joined the Chicago-based organization when it was founded by seven cancer patients in 2001.
“LUNGevity was the absolute first organization in the country that was dedicated exclusively to funding lung cancer research,” Feldman said. “I got involved shortly after the first benefit. I was the first volunteer who wasn't a family member or close friend of one of them.”
She worked to help the organization grow, as people around the country who had also been touched by the disease began launching walks and other fundraisers.
“It's a terrible feeling when someone is diagnosed and you have no control,” Feldman said. “What LUNGevity did for me, and many other people locally, is it gave us an outlet, a way to take the way we felt and turn it into something positive and make a difference. It's empowering.”
In 2009, Feldman was the one who received the dreaded diagnosis. Now hundreds of Deerfield residents are working to raise money for research that could save her life by signing up for the 5K fun run May 6 at .
“I think our community wants to rally around Jill,” said event coordinator Sue Bersh. “I look at the people that are signing up and the people who are fundraising. A lot of people love her in the community.”
“A community coming together”
In addition to supporting Feldman, the inaugural event honors the memory of three Deerfield residents who died of lung cancer -- LUNGevity founders Gayle Levy and Melissa Zagon, and Bersh’s best friend from Deerfield High School, Elyse Bernstein Keefe.
Bersh’s connection to Deerfield High School led her to reach out to students there, and she found they were very eager to help.
“With lung cancer, the awareness is so important. They don't understand it's the number one cancer killer, that one in 14 people get it, that it kills twice as many women as breast cancer. This is not a smoker's disease. It's not an old person's disease. Once those kids know the facts, they get it.”
Octagon Club Raises $750
The Octagon Club raised $750 with a flag football tournament and the Key Club hosted a benefit dance party. Feldman’s daughters helped get middle school students involved.
Mayor Harriett Rosenthal recognized 35 of these student volunteers when they attended the Deerfield Board of Trustees meeting April 16 for a reading of the proclamation declaring May 6 Breathe Deep Deerfield Day.
“These kids are getting their feet wet,” Feldman said. “It's a great experience for them. A lot of them are friends with my children, and at that age, it's so hard to communicate and express how you feel. I think this is their way of supporting their friends. The day of the race they're really going to feel proud of themselves.”
As of Tuesday, had raised more than $88,000 for lung cancer research and more than 600 people had registered. Bersh said she expects that hundreds more could sign up by race day, especially if the weather is nice.
“If you have a walk that has 300 people and you raise $40,000, that is considered amazing,” Feldman said. “We've doubled both at least. This isn't businesses bringing a bunch of people. This isn't a timed race that people want to do for fun. This is a community coming together personally for a cause.”
The Breathe Deep Deerfield 5K fun run, 1-mile walk and balloon launch kicks off at 9 a.m. May 6 at the Deerfield High School’s Adams Field. To register visit lungevity.org/Deerfield.