410 for Jill
San Francisco 5K Walk/Run
The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation is delighted to recognize “410 for Jill” as the MMRF Spirit of Hope Honoree at the 2016 MMRF Team for Cures: San Francisco 5K Walk/Run.
410 for Jill’s Story
“410 for Jill” is a team made up of nine women who have been touchstones since meeting freshman year at Cornell in 1987. They spent their senior year in an old house with a street address of “410” and they were sort of known on campus that year as the “girls of 410”. It just stuck and has been sort of a bonding moniker for them ever since. Since they graduated, they have lived across continents but have always maintained their bond. Jill Pflaum, one of the nine, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2011. The other eight in the group are Ruth Ann Keene (captain), Heather Severs, Dr. Sabrina Strickland, Kim LaFontana, Elizabeth Spokes, Hilary Morse, Elleke Haggerty and Meredith Shachoy. The women have remained a particularly tight-knit group despite living in all parts of the world and having families and careers running in different directions and at different times.
When Jill was diagnosed, just after giving birth to her fourth child, the women of 410 were at a loss—their personalities wouldn’t allow them to stand by and not do anything to help Jill. They did what they could to help Jill and her family with the health impacts of multiple myeloma but felt like they needed to do more. None of the women were big into running races but they found the MMRF “Race for Research” website after Jill told them about the great work of the MMRF and they decided they would enter. One member of the team lives in Chicago so they picked Chicago as a good place to start. That was 2013. As they started their fundraising, they found out there was a “thermometer” showing how much each team had raised and their competitive instincts kicked in. The team rallied and participated, raising far more than their original goal, learning in depth about the organization and loving their experience together. They were excited to repeat the experience in Chicago in 2014, where they exceeded their expectations once again. For this year’s race they thought it might be both fun and beneficial to take their “show on the road” so to speak and try to raise awareness in another city. With four team members in California, San Francisco fit the bill.
The team has adopted a few traditions for what is now their annual MMRF 5K “reunion.” First, because raising money is the primary reason for doing this, they set a high financial goal and go for it aggressively and fairly shamelessly. After the first race, they saw what they were able to do as a team and felt obligated to really keep raising the bar. In 2013, they raised $53,000. In 2014, they raised $77,000. This year, the group has set themselves up for significant work as they have set a team goal of $100,000!
A second tradition is that they make a reunion out of it, spending time before and after the race together buzzing about the city and just hanging out together and catching up. Third, they try to make some noise at the race with signage and t-shirts with a “410 for Jill” logo. Finally, the team has a tradition of building a human pyramid. This is something the women did throughout college and it sort of became part of their “410-ness” even into their 40’s! They continue to say the pyramid wouldn’t be complete without Jill and they know the MMRF is the organization that will make sure they don’t have to face that.
Jill and the “410 for Jill” team feel that the Spirit of Hope Award is one of most important honors any of them has ever received. As individuals, many of the team members have achieved great successes and been honored for many different things over the years. To say that this award is on the top of the list is a big statement. The team feels the honor is greatest, however, because they are receiving it for work they have done together.
“The ‘sum is greater than the parts’ idea really rings true here”, said Jill. “It just means more when you motivate each other and achieve something together.”
The team exemplifies the power of hope that this award strives to honor. From their own admission, they are a group of type-A personalities, so they note that they approach crises and problems with a certain level of focus and organization. “We have a pretty good understanding that trying to deal with the entirety of a crisis likely will be overwhelming and unproductive, so taking it piece-by-piece, almost chronologically has proven a more effective and tenable approach,” Jill said in reference to how she and her teammates have stayed hopeful during the toughest times of her myeloma journey. “Equally important is the ability to spend more time thinking about and engaging in all the good stuff that is going concurrent with the bad stuff. Fifty-one percent counts!” Jill said. “We have some amazing memories through our years of friendship and our Race for Research memories are some of the most treasured among those”, Ruth Ann said.
The MMRF works tirelessly to find a cure to extend the lives of patients just like Jill, and is proud to honor “410 for Jill” as the 2016 recipient of the MMRF Spirit of Hope Award, given at every MMRF 5K Walk/Run event to a person or team who inspires hope and shows extraordinary commitment to the MMRF. “410 for Jill” has touched the myeloma community with their strength of character, their kindness, and their embodiment of hope.