A marathon for a cure

When Kirk Stevens begins his trek in Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, the memory of his late father will weigh heavy on his mind.

After his father died in 1994 of colon cancer, Stevens became motivated to study medicine and to raise funds for cancer research.

The run will help him raise an anticipated $5,000 that he will donate to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center.

Stevens, 25, is now a third-year medical student at USF studying family medicine. His father’s death, Stevens said, intensified his interest in medical research. It was at Moffitt he found the story that inspired him to run the Chicago Marathon to raise money for Moffitt.

“I was at Moffitt one day and noticed a story in a brochure about Richard Gonzmart,” Stevens said. “He had raised over $11,000 for Moffitt by running marathons after his father died of cancer.”

Gonzmart, who owns Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, also lost his father to cancer and that is when he started “Richard’s Run for the Cure.” Gonzmart was unable to be reached for comment.

Stevens’ father was an avid runner himself, and this fact has already driven Stevens to run one marathon in his memory. He ran and completed the 1995 New York Marathon less than a year after his father’s death.

“At my father’s funeral, his former running partner said in a eulogy that my father once said that the pinnacle of his athletic career came when he ran in the New York Marathon,” Stevens said. “And so I decided to run it in memory of him. I trained with some of my football coaches for 10 months before the race.”

Moffitt is happy to be on the receiving end of any charity, but Stevens’ contributions are surprising even to the center’s charity organization, the Moffitt Foundation.

“It’s a wonderful cause he has taken up, and charity acts such as his are invaluable to Moffitt,” said Leslie Anderson, Moffitt’s annual gift specialist. “We have a lot of people who contribute to Moffitt, most of them after their lives have been touched by cancer. But one thing that is special about Kirk’s case is that he is so young. He is much younger than most of our charity contributors.”

Stevens learned of Gonzmart’s contributions and immediately began training for the 26.4-mile race.

“I have been training for five or six months now and have been raising money the whole time,” Stevens said. “So far I have raised over $3,000 in pledges. I am accepting pledges in the same way Gonzmart has: People can donate a certain amount of money per mile that I run. All of the money is going directly to Moffitt; I am even paying my travel expenses out of my own pocket.”

Stevens’ unselfish attitude impresses Moffitt almost as much as his youth.

“We obviously are thrilled to have people like Kirk Stevens to help us and perform acts like these,” Anderson said. “Without the help of people like him, who make helping us in our research and treatment a priority, Moffitt and other medical centers would be losing a great deal.”

Anyone wishing to contribute by making a pledge can email him at KiStevens@hsc.usf.edu or call the Moffitt Foundation at (813) 632-1403.