Plenty of people enjoy walking, running or riding bikes. But when some do it, they’re raising money—a lot of money—for charities battling cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, arthritis and more. Here are three exceptional women, all with passionate, personal connections to their causes, who have poured their hearts into supporting worthwhile efforts such as curing breast cancer and wiping out ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). They’re raising major money and making a lasting impact—one step at a time.
Irene Oberbauer, 57, Point Loma, Calif. (pictured below, right)
Total raised: $100,000
In 2009, Irene Oberbauer was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, a tough blow for anyone. But for Oberbauer, the news was doubly traumatic as her father, John, was already battling lung and bladder cancer, and her sister, Mary, was fighting a combination of breast, brain and lung cancer. Oberbauer fought cancer alongside her sister for a few short months but sadly, Mary lost her fight in May 2010.
Now, every year, Oberbauer, who was named “Honorary Survivor” in 2010, walks in her sister’s shoes— literally—when she laces up Mary’s sneakers for the Susan G. Komen San Diego Race for the Cure.
“I really had to dig deep to make this commitment,” she says. “I realized I had to do it for my sister, me and everyone else going through this journey.” Oberbauer, who planned casino game nights, published an e-newsletter and raised over $100,000 in four years, has proved to be a fundraising force and a role model for breast cancer survivors. “People shouldn’t be afraid to be ‘bald and bold,’” she says.
Sue Randall, 54, Barrington, Ill.
Total raised: $155,000
In December 2012, Sue Randall was already a seasoned fundraiser who, inspired by the loss of a friend to breast cancer, had collected $75,000 during her five years participating in the annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (avonwalk.org).
Then Randall met Paul Launer, 49, a North Barrington, Ill., father who had recently been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), a progressive and ultimately fatal disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
“Paul was looking for someone to write down life lessons to leave his girls,” Randall says. So they got to work. In August 2013, Randall volunteered as team captain when Launer decided to participate in the Les Turner ALS Walk for Life (alswalkforlife.org) at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Despite having just over four weeks to solicit donations and recruit walkers, her Iron Horse Brigade quickly swelled to 175 people, the largest fundraising team, and ultimately raised more than $80,000. On September 21, 2014, Randall’s team is chairing the ALS Walk for Life. “Our goal is $100,000 this year,” she says. “I’m determined we’ll be the No. 1 team in Chicago ALS Walk history.”
Ride Like Hell
Kathi Lucchesi, 45, Charlotte, N.C.
Total raised: $30,000
Kathi Lucchesi was a longtime veteran of Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training (teamintraining. org) marathons and Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (ww5. komen.org) events when in 2010, she joined the Charlotte, N.C., 24 Hours of Booty ride, a bike- a-thon (24hoursofbooty.org) benefiting local and national cancer-fighting programs.
That first year, she raised over $8,000. Then, just two days after the ride, her father, Bob Kanable, was diagnosed with bladder cancer. “Talk about a punch to the gut,” says Lucchesi. “Fundraising became almost an obsession. I was convinced if I could raise enough money, my dad would be OK.”
In July 2011, Lucchesi endured 95-degree heat, riding 152 miles during the Charlotte event. “My husband rode alongside me, making sure I had water, didn’t fall off my bike, and most importantly, encouraging me as I sobbed through the last 10 miles,” she says.
That year, she also rode in her hometown Indianapolis event, which in part benefits Indiana University Simon Cancer Center, where her father was a patient before passing away in August of 2011. During their last visit, Lucchesi’s father told her, “Ride like hell, punk.”
“That was his nickname for me,” she says. “He told me, ‘You’re doing great things.’”