In 2009, the mother of Brant Gniewek's best friend died of cancer, deeply impacting Gniewek.
"I needed answers and wanted to find a charity that helped fight cancer," he said. "When I moved from [my native] Michigan to Chicago in the summer of 2010, a friend told me about Imerman Angels and I have been volunteering with them ever since."
He ran his first-ever marathon, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, in 2011 to support the cancer organization Imerman Angels. He ran another 26.2 miles in the 2012 Chicago Marathonagain to support Imerman Angels, of which he is now a member of the charity's professional board.
"I have been very passionate about fighting cancer, and beating it," said Gniewek, 29, who lives in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood and works as a funder for a mortgage company. "After my first marathon [in 2011], I kind of wanted more and to push myself, so I decided to run a few more races this year, [from] the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle [on March 25 through] the Honolulu Marathon on Sunday, Dec. 9.
"As I was planning my races for this year, I came up with the idea to run one race a week for one person to help raise money for them to fight and beat cancer. After playing around with the idea, I came up with 52 for 52 to help fight cancer. The original idea was to [run] 52 races and raise money, but that turned into starting my own charity: 52 for 52."
The charity's 501(c) status is pending, he said.
"My goal is to raise money to help cover the cost of early detection. This means covering the cost of any type of exam, full physicals, getting information out there for people to do self-exams, and more. This can be for anyone who needs an exam, cannot afford the exam, or does not have the health insurance to cover the cost. I will be looking to partner with hospitals and clinics as the charity grows."
The cost to get tested varies, but the average is somewhere between $250-$500 per exam, Gniewek said. Money will be raised through donations on his blog, as well fundraising events and more.
Gniewek has committed to running 52 races in 2013 to help raise funds for the fight against cancer.
"The first year of my charity, the goal is to just get the word out, race, and get people informed that early-detection is key in fighting this horrible disease," Gniewek said. "With this being a [new] charity, the goal is to start small and help 52 people. That's one a week and each race has a goal to raise $375. The first year I am looking to raise $10,000 to help cover the cost of racing, which includes promoting 52 for 52, the registration cost, the cost of travel, and equipment. The other and most important fundraising will be to raise $20,000 to cover the cost of early detection for 52 people.
"I am very excited to take on this adventure in 2013, [though] it will be the hardest thing I have ever done. It will take a lot of support from friends and family just to get me through the races, and even more support from everyone to raise the money to help in the fight. On top of running, I will be putting in a lot of time getting this charity started. It's a huge challenge, but I am up for it."
Most of Gniewek's 2013 races will be in the Chicago area, starting with the annual Polar Dash Half Marathon Jan. 12, 2013.
"If there is a race that someone wants me to run in their city, I will look into it and try to do that race to bring awareness to their community," he said.
Gniewek is planning to run two 5K races (3.1 miles each), one half marathon (13.1 miles), and one marathon (26.2 miles) each and every month in 2013.
"It is a very ambitious goal and will depend on various [factors,] such as money, timing, location, etc.," Gniewek said. "Each race will be dedicated to someone who has fought cancer and beat it, died from it, or is currently fighting it."
For more information on Gniewek's 52 for 52 running challenge charity to support the fight against cancer, go to 52for52tofightcancer.blogspot.com .