On September 23, 2012, a group of 40 individuals, many of them self-proclaimed couch potatoes, will take on an incredible feat—competing in an Olympic Triathlon. While some of teammates had competed in the Jarden Westchester Triathlon before, most of them are first-timers. Together, all of them have a higher goal in mind—to raise money to find a cure for blood cancers.
Skippy’s Team 3.0 consists mostly of members of the Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue, who, for the third year, have decided to take on this challenge in memory of their dear friend, Stephen “Skippy” Lubofsky. Skippy lived in New Rochelle, New York with his wife Yael, and his three young children, Noam, Daniel, and Eliana. Stephen passed away on October 27, 2010 from complications resulting from a 13-month battle with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Stephen’s oldest son, Noam, was a member of Skippy’s Team 2.0, and will be participating in his second Olympic Triathlon at the age of 17 in memory of his father and in an effort to prevent another son from experiencing the loss he has experienced.
Stephen, previously a marathoner and tennis player, was diagnosed in 2009 with AML, a form of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. After unsuccessful chemotherapy, Stephen began participation in a clinical trial of a new drug developed through funding by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. During the early stages of the clinical trial, Stephen’s disease seemed to respond well. However, the effects of AML are diverse. In particular, the disease’s effect on the immune system results in dramatically increased risk of infections. Ultimately, the body loses its ability to fight off both the disease itself as well as a myriad of resulting serious medical conditions. While Stephen never for a moment gave up his spirit and will to fight the disease, his body simply could not continue on. In many cases, AML progresses rapidly and, if untreated, can be fatal within months and even weeks. Stephen fought his disease for 13 months—long enough to stand beside his son, Daniel, on the day of his bar mitzvah.
The Jarden Westchester Triathlon consists of a 0.9-mile open water swim in the Long Island Sound, followed by a 25-mile bike ride through the challenging hills of Westchester County, and a 6.2-mile run along the scenic roads of Rye, New York. To meet this challenge, Skippy’s Team, along with 21 other participants, are currently training with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training (TNT) campaign. All 61 members of the Triathlon Team embarked on TNT’s 6-days-per-week, 18-week training program, beginning in May. For almost four months, the team continues to embrace the challenge, and, for most team members, revamped their entire lifestyle. Together, they swam, biked, and ran under the guidance of TNT’s finest, USA Triathlon Certified triathlon coaches- David Burgess, Ann Ivan, Barbara Krajewski, and John Hughes. They will swim in both choppy and calm waters, bike and run through rain, humidity, and heat, all for the cause of finding a cure for blood cancers. For all but a few of the team’s members, this was their first triathlon. “The training is extremely difficult, tremendously time consuming, highly disruptive to our lives, and places great stress on our families and colleagues,” says Captain of Skippy’s Team, Robert Friedman. “Yet, we know that, if what we are doing seems hard, we nonetheless cannot begin to imagine what the challenges of Stephen’s illness and chemotherapy must have been for him and his family.”
Along with their training, Skippy’s Team has a goal of raising at least $100,000 to go directly towards AML research. In the past two years, through their hard work and dedication, they exceeded their own expectations, raising $261,759 through their fundraising for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. All their preparation and training for the Jarden Westchester Triathlon was not in vain. Last year’s fundraising efforts are supporting Dr. Maria Figueroa, whose research will be used to find a cure for AML patients everywhere. This year, the team’s goal is to raise another $100,000 to fund another researcher. “Skippy’s Team did this in memory of Stephen and in honor of all those men, women, and children that are currently battling leukemia,” comments Friedman. “We are doing this so that another father, mother, son, daughter, sister, or brother will not be taken from his or her family as Stephen was from his.” For more information, or to donate to Skippy’s Team, please visit http://pages.teamintraining.org/wch/wchtri12/skippysteam.