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Richfield Teacher Honors Leukemia Patients By Getting Fit

Melissa Campaña hopes to raise $2,100 before June 11.

In the midst of coordinating ’s annual fundraiser, teacher Melissa Campaña stumbled upon on leukemia survivor’s story that would inspire her and remind her of another who didn’t make it.

Alexandria Schindler-Ochoa, who goes by Alex, is named after the city in Egypt where her parents met. When Alex was 2 1/2 she was diagnosed with leukemia and after a two-year battle, has been cancer free for six months.

Campaña first noticed Alex on a Pennies for Patients poster sent out by the fundraiser's organization, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LIS). Under Alex's name it said she spoke Spanish. Being a teacher who works with the language everyday, Campaña dug into Alex’s story on her CaringBridge website—all 38 pages of it.

“It just hit really close to home,” Campaña said. “She was the same age as my daughter is now when she was diagnosed. … Her mother wrote her [daughter’s story] like a first person narrative. … It was incredible. ... She told me later it was like therapy to write it.”

Alex’s story also reminded Campaña of her first year as a teacher in the mid-1990s. Evelyn Rosario Escareño, the mother of one of her kindergartners, was diagnosed with the disease in October and passed away the following May.

“I saw the impact that [her death and the disease] had on the family,” Campaña said. “And after reading Alex’s story, I just decided that I wanted to act; to make a difference for both those families.”

Campaña got the perfect opportunity to honor the families when she discovered Team In Training (TNT), a charity sports program through LIS that trains and coaches willing participants for a variety of events such as marathons, triathlons and century bike rides. In return for the free coaching, participants agree to raise money for the organization prior to their chosen event. Campaña chose to train for the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon, which binds her to raising $2,100 by June 11.

“I’ve always wanted to get in shape,” Campaña said. “But I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it if I didn’t have someone to help me, and it couldn’t be for a better cause.”

Getting Fit For Her Heroes

Since February, Campaña has been training with her coaches and fellow athletes three times a week. And for someone who said her exercise regimen ranged from chasing kids to the bus stop to chasing them around the house, it’s been tough.

However, when she feels like she wants to stop, she looks at the pictures of her "Honored Heroes."

“To train in honor of somebody has helped me keep going,” she said. “I have those pictures with me and when it gets hard I look at those and I know it’s not as bad as what they went through.”

In addition, Campaña was recently told about Ty Schroeder, a student, who is in his final stages of treatment for the disease and she has decided to add him to her Honored Heroes list. With that, she will be training for someone who survived, someone who died and someone who is still fighting.

For more information on Campaña’s mission or to donate, go to pages.teamintraining.org/mn/lifetri12/melissacampana. To see Alex’s story, go to caringbridge.org/visit/alexschindler/photos.

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In order to meet her fundraising goal by June 11, Campaña is planning on hosting mini-fundraisers with the help of her school, including a spaghetti dinner and Bingo event, and Friday date nights where parents can drop their children at school and give a donation in any amount for the childcare. Currently, she's raised about $1,100.

Richfield Patch will update readers on these events as more information becomes available.

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Micah and Jim Kinder April 18, 2012 at 02:20 PM
BRAVO! Melissa! I will make a donation for your cause ...I first heard of Team In Training program thru a fellow member of M.M.G.(Mn.Mosaic Guild ). You have chosen well in supporting help. Wow. I hope it goes well! Thank you for doing this-for the people, for awareness of the disease, and, what a wonderful gift for yourself! "You go girl!" Micah Bach Kinder G'ma of Jacob and Natalia Bach-Dowd
Caitlin Burgess (Editor) August 02, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Little update on this. Melissa has switched to the Minneapolis Duathlon, which will be Aug. 26 and she's still collecting funds.

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