Broadway star Kelli O’Hara will run in the TCS New York City Marathon this Sunday, November 7, to raise money and awareness for the Cancer Support Community, a global nonprofit network that provides $50 million in free navigation and support services to patients and their loved ones.
2021 marks CSC’s first year as one of the marathon’s official charity partners, allowing runners to raise money that will directly go to it.
“It’s a bucket list thing for me, running the New York City marathon,” said O’Hara. “I have always wanted to do it, and I am thrilled to take on this challenge to support the Cancer Support Community, an organization that is dear to my heart.”
O’Hara, who has been nominated for numerous awards for her work on Broadway and the West End, and who won a Tony Award for best actress in a musical in 2015 for her performance in The King and I, will appear in HBO’s new series The Gilded Age. She also is a longtime friend and supporter of CSC, earlier this year participating in the organization’s virtual 5K; she previously participated in its galas and virtual celebrations.
O’Hara also appeared with Broadway star and CSC Champion Jason Danieley on the livestream series Stars in the House in an episode honoring the legacy of advocacy of CSC Champion and Broadway star Marin Mazzie, who passed away from ovarian cancer in 2018. Mazzie and Danieley married in 1997.
In a recent interview, O’Hara said she began running when she was 12, living on a farm in Oklahoma, and continued to run for conditioning when she played basketball in junior high school.
“It became a thing for me. I would do a lot of thinking while I ran, I loved it. I’ve jogged casually my whole life,” she said.
She said she has not run long races recently because she frequently has to appear in Sunday matinees.
She decided, she said, “If I don’t do it this year, I probably will never do it in my life.”
To train for the marathon, O’Hara has run with a friend, a mother whose children are the same age as hers; she said she also has followed Hal Higdon’s marathon training program. One upside of the Covid-19 pandemic, she added, is that it has given her free time to run more consistently than in recent years.
When performing lately on the road, O’Hara has trained whenever and wherever she can find time; she also has run in Central Park, her “old stomping grounds.” The bulk of her training has been in Connecticut, where she and her family live.
Among CSC’s many services O’Hara praised is the support it provides to those who are helping loved ones fight cancer.
The organization, she explained, “helps that entire entity, guidance, support in that way, emotional and otherwise. We’re only as strong as our weakest link, so anyone who’s fighting cancer, that support system is so integral to their success. It covers all of those bases.”
Several members of O’Hara’s family have passed away from pancreatic cancer, including her grandfather and her mother-in-law, Pamela Naughton, who she said lived with the disease for almost four years and was “just not ready.” A close girlfriend died from a rare form of bone cancer in December 2019; she said she and her friend “went through it side by side” for about four years.
“We all have these stories. That particular timing really affected me—it was after we had lost my mother-in-law and I just wanted to give back somehow.” she explained.
“Kelli O’Hara is a massively talented performer whose passion and dedication for helping cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones is awe inspiring,” said CSC interim chief executive Ken Scalet. “We are honored by and grateful for Kelli’s ongoing support. CSC continues to be a necessary lifeline for people living with cancer during these difficult times, with more people than ever turning to us. With every mile Kelli runs, she will help us meet this need and provide vital support and navigation at no cost to anyone who has been touched by cancer.”
As the largest professionally-led nonprofit network of cancer support worldwide, CSC, including its Gilda’s Club affiliates, is dedicated to insuring that all people affected by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community.
CSC achieves its mission through direct service delivery, research and advocacy. The organization’s Institute for Excellence in Psychosocial Care includes an international network of affiliates that offer the highest quality social and emotional support for people affected by cancer, as well as a community of support available online and over the phone.
Its Research and Training Institute conducts cutting-edge psychosocial, behavioral and survivorship research, and its Cancer Policy Institute informs public policy in Washington, D.C.. and across the nation.
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