October 11, 2018 By Mirela Kopier

From the Race Director: Mesothelioma Race for Justice 2018

It started out as most things do, with an idea to raise money for a charity that is near and dear to Vogelzang Law, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. I never expected just how much it would take to plan a 5K. I have run lots of races throughout the Chicagoland area and the northern suburbs, and some were better than others. For the last seven years, I have run the first race of the season, the Shamrock Shuffle. It is exhilarating to see thousands of people lining Columbus Dr waiting for the Chicago running season to start. I have run small neighborhood 5Ks with 25 participants trying to raise money to provide a small scholarship to a neighborhood kid. When I sat down and began thinking about what kind of race I wanted to host, I knew it had to involve family. Vogelzang Law is a family run firm, and our clients and their loved ones are important to us. I wanted to make sure that this race would bring us all together for a common cause.

First, we had to find a venue. Do we host in our beautiful city or do we reach out to the gorgeous forest preserves in the suburbs? We decided to find a forest preserve in the suburbs. As I had grown up in northern Illinois, I knew of quite a few forest preserves that would make a wonderful setting for the race. After asking what felt like a million questions to the very hospitable event manager at the Lake County Forest Preserve, we decided on the Half Day location. Of all the Lake County forest preserves, I had never been to the Half Day location but based on the website photos the location was beautiful. A few weeks after we decided on the location, I decided to take a visit and realized that the pictures did not do it justice. Even on the brink of spring with winter lingering, I could envision the laughs had at the finish line with medals being proudly accepted, the DJ keeping the spectators jamming to tunes, and the memories being made all for such a worthy cause.

The morning of the race was a crisp September day. I was up at 3 am having not slept much in the weeks leading up to the race. Everything was already packed in the cars and ready to go. I sat for a moment having my coffee in the dark morning, going through the list in my head one more time and feeling as prepared as I possibly could be. The race went smoothly and everyone from participants, volunteers, vendors, and spectators seemed to enjoy the day. The weather cooperated with the sun shining brightly, and it turned out to be a marvelous day. Our DJ had people dancing, our photographers were snapping pictures, our vendors were selling hot dogs, our charities were passing out information, and the raffle was a huge success.

The race came full circle two weeks later on October 5th, when I was able to hand over a check for $6345.55 to Mary Hesdorffer, the Executive Director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. The words she said to me made all the planning and sleepless nights worth it. “You have no idea how much The Foundation needed this this year,” she said. Hearing the appreciation in her words and in her voice made my heart smile. I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity to raise money for such a worthy cause. The donation we made could pay to send a newly diagnosed mesothelioma patient to see a specialist, sponsor a march on Capitol Hill to get federal funding for research and advocate for an asbestos ban in the U.S., or support important clinical trials and research. Knowing that these are the things that this donation will make possible makes it all worthwhile.