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Racing for Sponsorship

After "miscommunication," Leesburg mother and daughter scramble to raise sponsorship for charitable marathon.

When the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society asked Leesburg resident Martha Howar whether she could guarantee her and her daughter’s participation in its marathon next month, she thought much of their funding was secure. A local car dealership had committed to giving between $3,500 and $5,000 to their cause.

However, about three weeks ago, after the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society had purchased airline tickets and race entries for Howar and her daughter, she got a call from the dealership saying it could not make the donation. Howar said the renege appeared to be the result of a simple miscommunication, but she is now struggling to raise the required sponsorship before the race. The P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon will be held Jan. 13.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program trains runners for months, purchases their airline tickets and hotel reservations and throws them a victory party. In return, the runners raise a certain amount of money for the organization.

Howar and her daughter, Nadia, a 17-year-old Heritage High School student, are required to raise a total of $7,600 and are now about $4,500 short.

THE MARATHONS bring the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society more than $100 million per year, $65 million of which goes to funding blood cancer research, said spokeswoman Nancy Klein, adding that the funding has already led to major breakthroughs in the field. Funding is also dedicated to education and support for patients.

"They’re doing a tremendous thing," Klein said of the runners who participate in the program. "It’s a huge commitment of time and energy and they’re individually raising a lot of money." She said her organization is the largest nonprofit funding blood cancer research.

"We’re hoping to put them out of business by finding a cure," Howar said of the organization. However, she said her long hours at Fairfax Hospital, working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which attempts to save premature infants, has made last-minute fund raising a challenge. When she has time, Howar has been soliciting local businesses, as well as family, friends and coworkers. She spent much of last weekend at Dulles Town Center raffling a pair of tickets to the upcoming, sold-out Hannah Montana concert, which she had purchased at high cost. "It’s a lot of work," she said.

This will be the fourth year Howar has run in a Team in Training marathon. "It makes you feel good about yourself when you do something for somebody else," she said. She started running the races after her father died — although he died of blood cancer — because he had always been impressed by her running prowess. "He used to tell all his friends about it," she said. She recalled once running 30 miles with her friends when she was younger. "He talked about that for a long time."