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Keeping Brain Tumors on the Run

October 12, 2006 By:
Frank Rosci, JE Feature
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Pamela Kelberg and husband Mike Gross honor her mother with a special fundraiser.
Philadelphia is getting set to walk, run and race in the battle against brain tumors.

An estimated 1,500 regional residents are expected to take part in the first ever 5K (about 3 miles) run/walk, on Sunday, Nov. 5, to benefit research by the Brain Tumor Society.

Based in Boston, but with strong support here and nationally, BTS champions the ongoing fight against brain tumors, the second-leading cause of cancer death in children and young adults, and one of the fastest-growing causes of cancer in the elderly.

BTS statistics show that more than 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with a brain tumor every year. But, according to medical researchers, strides made in the past two years toward curing brain tumors have surpassed all of the work done in the previous 20 years.

The upcoming run/walk is BTS's first Race for Hope: Philadelphia, to be staged beginning and ending at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and coursing along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (formerly West River Drive).

Brother and sister Scott and Pamela Kelberg of Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, respectively, are co-chairs of the Race for Hope committee and the driving forces behind the event, being held to honor the memory of their mother Eileen S. Kelberg, an educator and librarian who lost her battle with brain cancer at the age of 54 back in December of 1996. They are hoping to increase awareness about the disease and raise much-needed funds for research.

"We've been talking for a couple of years about having this event in Philly, which was inspired by the Brain Tumor Society's Cassidy & Pinkard Race for Hope 5K in Washington, D.C. Last year, the annual Race for Hope in Washington, now in its ninth year, raised more than $1.1 million for grants at the country's leading universities and top medical centers," explained Pam Kelberg, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist. "Our fundraising goal for our first year in Philadelphia is $150,000."

"People don't have to be runners to be part of this cause-driven event," added Scott Kelberg, who works as a division director of the Department of Homeland Security. "We want to make this an annual family event, because in gathering and talking, people discover brain tumors are more common than they imagined -- and that it's likely someone they know has been affected by one."

Rapid Advancement
Their mother's story of being diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1995, after experiencing slurred speech one day, and the disease's rapid advancement, is a fairly typical scenario for someone with a malignant growth. Eileen Kelberg's tumor was glioblastoma -- the second most deadly kind of brain tumor. Meningioma is the most virulent form.

"Our mom was healthy and very active -- she was a walker long before that became popular, and also played tennis -- when she was stricken very suddenly," said Pam Kelberg.

"She had two surgeries, the first in April 1995. After that, she resumed a normal lifestyle and returned to work, but not all of the tumor could be removed. She was left with the effects of stroke, but never gave up, teaching herself to walk and talk again," explained the daughter. "Following the second surgery in September 1995, she lapsed into a coma. The nature of brain tumors is that they are very fast-growing."

Scott and Pam's father, Bernie Kelberg, D.O., a physician whose medical practice is in Hamilton, N.J., and who is on staff at Greenwood Jewish Home for the Aged in Trenton, has been instrumental also in supporting BTS and the race in Philadelphia, acknowledged his son and daughter.

The family's first endeavor locally at fundraising was the Eileen S. Kelberg Memorial Race/Walk in 1997 -- part of Hahnemann Hospital's Terry Fox Run -- held to raise money for the neurology department's research program.

With the experience gained at that event, the Kelbergs connected with BTS at a congressional event in Washington in early 1998.

"BTS pledged to help organize an annual event in Philadelphia," said Scott Kelberg, who was one of the core founders of the BTS Washington run. "We desperately need as many volunteers as possible for the Philadelphia run, and we need sponsors, too. It's a great opportunity for local businesses and synagogues to get involved."

His sister added that "a goal is to have teams of walkers and runners participate. We would love it if every congregation had a team."

In addition, she continued, brain-cancer survivors will be recognized at the run/walk, and there will be a fun walk for children, each of whom will receive a medal saluting all of them as winners. The best adult runners will receive prizes from restaurants, book stores and other businesses.

"We want to create a grass-roots community here as in D.C.," stated Pam Kelberg with conviction, "a family where people can go to connect."

For more information on registering and participating in the run and fun walk, call 215-242-1553 or go to: www. brain tumorsociety.org.

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