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Taking strides against cancer

A local resident participated in the Broad Street Run as a tribute to her mother

By Lindsey Nolen

When South Philly resident Meredith Rebar was just 12 years old, she lost her mother to a year-long battle with lung cancer. In remembering her mother’s fight and the impact the disease had on her own adolescence, Rebar has dedicated her life to spreading cancer awareness and, in doing so, ran the Blue Cross Broad Street Run on Sunday, May 7.

“Losing my mother at such a young age was so traumatic, and being a kid I didn’t fully understand the impact,” Rebar said. “It’s all still clear in my mind, and I remember how hard it was watching someone you love lose their battle after fighting so hard.”

Rebar, who was then raised by her father, John, went on to graduate high school and attend Penn State University. In 2007, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in marketing with a minor in film/cinema/video studies.

“After a career fair at Penn State, I met a couple of representatives from the American Cancer Society and they said they were recruiting people to fundraise and event plan,” Rebar said. “I never knew you could work for the organization before, but I really enjoyed fundraising and event planning and it was a cause close to my heart.”

Rebar’s first job out of college was with the American Cancer Society. For three years, she helped host relay for life events and felt as though she was doing her part in giving back to something so near and dear to her heart.

“It was such a great experience. I met people I’m still friends with who I consider some of my closest friends,” Rebar said. “It’s such a great community, and I still keep in touch with a lot of the volunteers and staff members today that I used to work with as well.”

From there, she found employment with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the nation’s leading cancer advocacy organization. With the goal of working every day to make cancer issues a national priority, for two years she proceeded to work with ACS CAN to “fight back” at the legislative level.

“I worked with the federal and state-level legislators and I focused on southeast Pennsylvania. I set up meetings with them in hopes to get them to support different cancer issues,” Rebar said. “There were some legislators that had lost someone to cancer themselves and thus were great cheerleaders and really understood it, while in a power position and able to make a difference.”

While working with ASC CAN, another meaningful impact that was left on Rebar involved the DetermiNation program, the American Cancer Society’s “nation of athletes determined to end cancer.” Although she didn’t consider herself to be in shape around the time she learned about this program, Rebar decided it was yet another way that she could do her part in fighting the disease.

Joining the DetermiNation team and its inspiring movement, Rebar decided to take part in its effort to combine athleticism and fundraising. She began to training for her first Blue Cross Broad Street Run in 2015.

“I hadn’t run more than 3 miles before the race, so it was tough,” Rebar, who raised $500 that year for DetermiNation’s cause, said. “I had trained with a fitness group and the DetermiNation team prior, but I wasn’t in shape. Although I was super slow, I felt really accomplished afterward.”

Wishing to continue participating in the Broad Street Run with DetermiNation for years to come, Rebar continued training. Along with helping her raise cancer awareness, she also kept running and training to improve her health and help prevent herself from someday receiving a cancer diagnosis.

“I was athletic through school and college and then got out of school and got away from being active and healthy,” Rebar said. “Making the decision to run helped force me to get healthy again. I’m actually healthier now than I was in high school.”

In her second year participating in the run, she improved her time and was able to increase her fundraising efforts to $1,500. Set on continuing this trend, before this year’s Broad Street Run, Rebar, who lives at 11th and Snyder, woke up early, put on her DetermiNation t-shirt, placed a DetermiNation temporary tattoo on her cheek and took the SEPTA to the DetermiNation tent at the starting line, mentally preparing herself along the way.

Crossing the starting line, Rebar, 31, set a personal goal of completing the race in under two hours, which she did finishing in 1:58:00. Additionally, this year, which is also the 20th anniversary of her mother’s death, she raised the most money to date, harnessing $2,500.

“The race is one of the coolest ways to see the different neighborhoods and parts of the city,” Rebar said. “It’s also a great way to meet others who have gone through similar experiences. It is truly comprised of such a great community.”

Helping to commemorate her accomplishment, Rebar’s husband, and 10 to 15 members of her family and friends, came together that morning to make up her cheering section. Also in attendance on the race’s sideline was her father, who donates to DetermiNation and who comes in support from Douglasville each year his daughter has participated in the Broad Street Run.

“It means so much that he comes each year and donates,” Rebar said. “My dad has always been my cheerleader, and he and I are super close. He went through losing my mom as well, he knows I’m doing it for my mom. This is close to his heart as well.”

Although in the time since she began running in the race she no longer works for ASC CAN, Rebar plans to continue her participation in the Broad Street Run for as many years as the DetermiNation program hosts a team. In addition to this run, which is the largest 10-mile road race in the U.S., she will also participate in the Philly 10k in August and the Philly Half Marathon in November.

“DetermiNation is something I feel very strongly about, and as long as it is involved in these races, I will be too,” Rebar said. “There’s such a huge community of racers and people supporting DetermiNation and acknowledging we’re trying to do.”

She continued that, between the runners who are currently going through treatment, who have overcome cancer or who have lost someone to the disease, this common thread is what holds them all together and motivates them to complete the race. Above all, each runner aims to make a difference and for their own reasons fight to end cancer.

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