November 20, 2017

A Good Run

Before he runs his annual 5K, UMW junior Kyle Pfohl will hydrate and stretch, just like he’s done for the past several years. This time, though, one thing will be missing – the reason the race exists to begin with, his mother.

Junior Kyle Pfhol, who's organizing a Father's Day run to benefit local cancer patients, warms up before a practice with track teammate Chris Markham '17. Photo by Norm Shafer.
Junior Kyle Pfhol, who’s organizing a Father’s Day run to benefit local cancer patients, warms up before a practice with track teammate Chris Markham ’17. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Annette Pfohl passed away last November after a decade-plus battle with breast cancer. But long before that, Kyle, a cross country runner, just like she was, had established an event to honor her fight. He was still in high school when he started the Battling Cancer Race, the first to exclusively benefit oncology patients in the Fredericksburg area.

In its sixth year, the Father’s Day 5K event has raised tens of thousands of dollars. Now, Pfohl, a transfer student who finished his first year at Mary Washington, hopes his new school – and the tight-knit community that comes with it – will take his fundraising efforts to the finish line.

“One of the biggest things my mom said is ‘never give up’ and ‘never let cancer run your life, you have to be in charge of it,’ ” said Pfohl, a Fredericksburg native who, at UMW, majors in communications and digital studies, and runs track and cross country.

Running was a bond shared by the two, who liked to talk about how the activity can bring about change “one step at a time.” And it did. Less than a week before the biggest race of his life – the NCAA Southeast Regional meet – she passed away.

“In the back of my mind, I was thinking about it … and it was hard to concentrate,” said Pfohl, who pushed through his grief to make the trip to Rome, Georgia, with his UMW cross country teammates. “I literally broke down after the race because I knew I could have done better, but under the circumstances, I think my mom would’ve been proud.”

The annual Battling Cancer 5K, organized by UMW junior Kyle Pfohl, has raised more than $84,000 to date.
The annual Battling Cancer 5K, organized by UMW junior Kyle Pfohl, has raised more than $84,000 to date.

Kyle was just 10 years old in 2005, when his mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that began in one breast and reappeared throughout her body. During her decade-plus battle with the disease, she endured chemotherapy, radiation and multiple surgeries but kept coming to work, day after day, teaching fifth grade in Woodbridge, Virginia.

“I found Annette to be one of the most courageous women I have ever met,” said volunteer UMW cross country coach Chris Sloane, who’s been Pfohl’s personal coach since 2015. “Her strength and resilience pass down to Kyle.”

Launched in 2012, with the help of Pfohl’s father and older brother, the Battling Cancer Race raised more than $14,000 in its first year for the Mary Washington Healthcare Regional Cancer Center. The event has continued to grow, attracting hundreds of runners, vendors and advertisers, and raising more than $84,000 to date.

“The Fredericksburg cancer center is huge and people need to know you can get treated here,” Pfohl said. “You don’t have to fight the traffic to D.C. or Richmond. You can stay home.”

The annual Battling Cancer 5K, organized by UMW junior Kyle Pfohl, has raised more than $84,000 to date.
The annual Battling Cancer 5K, organized by UMW junior Kyle Pfohl, has raised more than $84,000 to date.

In the future, he plans to add a pre-event fair-type expo, with food vendors and health care professionals onsite. The family would like to create its own nonprofit to benefit cancer treatment in Fredericksburg. And, with the help of his new UMW family, Pfohl hopes to top $100,000 this year.

“Mary Washington is always big about building community, and I want to use this race to give back and represent the UMW community while helping the local area,” he said. “As my mom put it, ‘never giving up hope is what makes life move on.’ ”

Held on Father’s Day, the Battling Cancer Race is scheduled this year for Sunday, June 18. It begins and ends at the Carl D. Silver Health Center/Moss Free Clinic parking lot in Fredericksburg. Visit battlingcancerrace.com for more information.

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When University of Mary Washington senior Rebecca Kalinich was in the hospital last spring for surgery, career planning was not on her agenda.

Yet a newspaper article about the issues associated with prosthetic limbs in underdeveloped countries caught her attention – and planted a seed that changed her future.

A year later, Kalinich is graduating from UMW with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a future in artificial limb design. This fall, she will volunteer with Walter Reed military hospital in Bethesda, Md., designing and assembling prosthetic arms and legs to gain experience for graduate school.

Rebecca Kalinich shares her limb diagrams.
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After her time in the hospital, Kalinich continued to hear stories about issues with artificial limbs and develop her desire to design them. She was especially moved by accounts of runners whose prosthetic legs would frequently break, keeping them from being able to compete.

“That just shouldn’t happen,” said Kalinich, who is an avid runner. “They’re trying this hard to have a normal life again and that should be possible.”

When she returned to UMW for her senior year, she had a new focus for her studies. Luckily, though, her newfound career goal didn’t leave her scrambling to change her academic course.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the health sciences because I’ve been around sports my whole life,” said Kalinich, who already was majoring in biology. Since she was 5, she’d been involved in gymnastics, soccer and diving, while her parents, who are both scientists, have influenced her to combine her passions for sports and science.

With a father who worked on a military base and a grandfather who served in the Army, working with veterans was a natural fit for her first job out of college.

“It’s a good way to help them out when they return from duty,” said Kalinich, whose dream job is with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, helping veteran amputees learn to maneuver their new limbs and move on with their lives.

One day, she’d like to see active duty military members using prosthetic limbs that she designed.

“You see what military members can go through after serving our country, and I just want to help them,” said Kalinich.

“What better way than to use my career for their benefit.”

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