Cancer Patients Lead Races To Help Others


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Tim Drost with his wife Jeananne after the New York City Marathon

Tim Drost doesn’t know Tyler Coppola all that well. Drost is an adult; Coppola is just a kid. And were it not for one thing, they might not have much in common.

That one thing is cancer, however. And this spring, Tim Drost is going to be working to rally funds for cancer research –and support for Tyler Coppola. Tyler, meanwhile, is rallying a team to raise money for kids just like him.

Their efforts kick off this Wednesday night at O’Neil’s Restaurant & Pub with a fundraising dinner organized by Drost. From 5 to 9 p.m., O’Neil’s will donate 25% of everytone’s check to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Drost, who was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia a little over a decade ago–about the same time that he moved to Verona– will then step up his training for a half-marathon in Long Branch on May 2. Drost and his team have set a goal of raising $27,000, and they already 70% of the way there. (To add your pledge to Drost’s page, click here.)

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“If you have to have leukemia, that’s the one you want,” Drost says of his disease. “It’s very treatable.” Treatable, he adds, but not now curable. And so Drost monitors his white cell count constantly, and when things get out of whack, goes into a hospital for treatment, the last time in 2009.

It was then that he read about a fundraising walk for Tyler in Verona Park. Though both Drost and the Coppolas are F.N. Brown families, they didn’t know each other. But Drost remembered what his family went through during his first treatment in 2002, and decided to reach out. “I didn’t want to impose anything on them,” says Drost, “but I wanted to extend my support if they needed it.” He has dedicated the Long Branch race to Tyler.

The youngster was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia  in October 2007 when he was just four years old. He is being treated at the Valerie Fund Center at Newark Beth Israel and his mother Jennifer says he is now in the maintenace phase of therapy, with his last treatment in sight:  January 28, 2011. “Childhood leukemia is one of the most common and treatable forms of childhood cancer, with success rates of 80-85%,” says Jennifer Coppola. “I could not tell you where we would be without the Valerie Fund and their help of treating both Tyler and our family.”

Which brings us to the final fundraiser for the spring. The Maplewood-based Valerie Fund, which supports the care of children with cancer and blood disorders, is having its annual walk at Verona Park on Saturday, June 12. You can register to walk, run or donate to Tyler’s “Mr. T” team here.

“In some ways leukemia was the best thing that ever happened to me,” says Drost. “It really grounded me. If you don’t appreciate what you have, you’re really numb to life. Leukemia helped me to reflect and embrace the things around me.”

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]



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