Memories fill every stride

Cancer: A Salisbury University sophomore trains for a race in honor of her brother and to help find a cure.

Education Beat

News from Carroll County schools and colleges

April 24, 2005|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

She is training for her first half-marathon, raising funds for cancer research and remembering her teenage brother. The Spanish major at Salisbury University is also acing most of her classes and considering a stint in the Peace Corps.

Nicole Hladky, 19, finishes each day of classes on the Eastern Shore campus with a brisk 5 1/2 -mile jog on what students affectionately call the turkey trot.

On a quick visit home last week, she ran through Piney Run Park and managed to get lost briefly on the wooded trails.

"I am directionally impaired," she said.

She plans to bone up on map skills and build up her stamina to at least nine miles before she heads to Anchorage in June for a 13.1-mile race, a fund-raising event for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The 2003 South Carroll High School graduate is running for a cause. She lost her 17-year-old brother, Gregory, to complications from leukemia nearly six years ago and her grandfather, Harold Wanzer, to lymphoma in 2003.

The college sophomore has already raised $8,000 for the cancer society, far more than her original goal of $5,000, and the donations are still coming.

"I can't do research, and I don't think I could ever work in a hospital, but I can run, and I really want to find a cure for this disease," she said.

Friends at home in Eldersburg organized a bake sale at the Eldersburg Wal-Mart yesterday and the local Eldersburg Pizza Hut is donating 20 percent of its proceeds on Wednesday.

"I thought fund raising would be the hardest part of this, but it is the training," she said. "I played soccer and basketball in high school, but those were not at this intensity. The last mile in the Alaska run is called suicide hill. I am not sure how to train for that."

The fund raising has not been nearly as intense and has far exceeded her expectations, she said.

"The community and my friends have all been so helpful," she said. "They don't just send a check and say, `Good luck.' They ask, `How can I help?'"

An annual participant in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, Hladky learned the leukemia society's annual marathon would be in Alaska this year and knew she had to go. A half marathon is also offered

The country's "last frontier" held a fascination for her brother. He often told her how he wanted to visit Alaska and see the snow-capped mountains, the glaciers and the wildlife, especially the Kodiak bears.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation, a charity that works with critically ill children, had promised Gregory that trip.

"He wanted to go to Alaska and see the Kodiak bears, but he never got to go," she said. "When somebody told me this year's run would be in Alaska, I felt like somebody was telling me something. I feel like I am going for Gregory."

She has made her own campaign out of the preparations for the race.

"This is all about raising awareness and funds for research," she said. "All I want is for people to be informed about the disease. Until my brother got it, I didn't know a thing about leukemia."

With every fund-raiser, she offers a list of facts and cancer warning signs.

"So many people are affected by cancer," she said. "I am just an ordinary college student who wanted to do something to help. I have gotten letters from people I don't even know telling me about loss and wishing me luck. Several of them have said, `You go, girl.' Some have said they knew my brother."

So she runs every day and gets ready for her most difficult athletic challenge.

"I eat lots of carbs early in the day and then run them off," she said. "At night, I eat meat and vegetables. Sugar is just poison."

Trainers at the university have advised her to build up to at least 6 1/2 miles, half the race distance.

"I am hoping to train up to 10 miles," she said. "Maybe, then, the motions will carry me."

A good run can start your day off right, clear your head and give you time to think, she said. And she often thinks of Gregory.

"I can hold a conversation and talk about the facts surrounding my brother, but it is still hard for me," she said. "I still miss him. I have good days and bad days, and he is always on my mind. We were extremely close, the weirdest siblings ever, always hanging out together."

Nicole was a freshman at South Carroll High, when Gregory was hospitalized and awaiting a bone marrow transplant.

She recalled their weekend visits, when she would bring whatever foods his taste buds could handle.

They often spoke of the future, she said.

"I was there when he died, and I said, `See you in heaven,'" she said.

Nancy Hladky will accompany her daughter on the trip west and will be cheering her on from the sidelines.

"I really have to admire her stamina," Nancy Hladky said.

The Hladkys will fly to Alaska two days before the June 18 race and will prolong the visit for a few more days.

"I have to see the Kodiak bears," Nicole said.

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