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'Freeze Your Lymphs Off' Saturday in Edgeworth to benefit cancer research

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Josh Billings has two goals in mind for the 5K event he's organizing Saturday in Edgeworth: “Beat last year” and help fight cancer.

The Quaker Valley High School junior already is on his way to accomplishing those goals, including beating last year's registered participants and dollars raised for the Freeze Your Lymphs Off 5K For Lymphoma.

“It's really powerful for us to raise this money and be able to help possibly solve the cancer that my dad has,” said Billings, 17.

The event began as a school-required personal project Billings first organized last year as a sophomore.

“I was originally thinking of doing something little to just get it over with,” said Billings, a member of the school's cross country team.

Then his father, Donald, was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma — a rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma — a blood cancer, resulting from a malignant transformation of a lymphocyte in the outer edge of a lymph node follicle, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Mantle cell lymphoma makes up just 6 percent of all non-Hodgkins lymphoma cases, according to data released last year by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. After a stem cell transplant around November 2011, Billings' father went into remission — about six months after first being diagnosed.

“He's doing really well now,” Billings said of his father.

His father is on a maintenance program and receives chemotherapy at times, Billings said.

So far, nearly 300 participants are registered for the 5K run and one-mile walk through Edgeworth. About 275 runners and walkers from ages 8 to 68 participated last year, Billings said.

About $6,000 already has been collected in sponsorships, and Billings said he hopes to beat last year's donation total of $12,000.

He praised Quaker Valley and Edgeworth officials for helping to grow this year's event. His mentor froom last year, Nina Strelec, is helping him along the way.

“He's really done all of the work for this,” said Strelec, a runner and Edgeworth Elementary School art teacher.

“He organized last year's event without ever really seeing an actual race, and it turned out very well. So we're hopeful this year's race will be even better.”

Spectators who might not be interested in participating are welcome.

“Last year we had neighbors banging pots and pans to cheer for people,” he said. “We had a great turnout of supporters.”

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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