August 09, 2006
Greenport Trustee Jamie Mills cuts a familiar figure on the village canvas, seen running on area roads most days despite soaring temperatures and spiking humidity, never flagging from his unfailing training routine.
But while Mills has earned a reputation as a dedicated runner, competing in and completing a long litany of races and marathons, including last year's ING New York Marathon, this time around, he's running for his life — and the lives of countless others.
In November, Mills plans to run and finish the 2006 ING New York Marathon. But unlike last year, when Mills was training with only the goal of reaching the finish line in under a targeted time, this year, he is running for a greater purpose, the common good. Mills will be running under the auspices of Fred's Team, a team of individuals committed to raising funds for critical cancer research.
To that end, Mills has set a fundraising goal of $25,000.
The race holds deep-rooted meaning for Mills, a two-time cancer survivor who was first diagnosed with lymphoma in 1998. Soon after, he lost his mother to cancer in 1999.
But rather than succumb to his sadness, Mills, an avid running enthusiast who'd taken up the sport years before his diagnosis, kept running to keep the demons at bay."I'm a firm believer that physical fitness is integral to overall health of the body and mind," he said.
Mills' can-do attitude kept him going strong even as he battled cancer, juggling his thriving canvas business, W.J. Mills & Co., with his duties as a village trustee. Mills was instrumental in the planning and execution of the newly launched transient Mitchell Marina in Greenport; the bustling transient docks are the embodiment of over a decade of diligence.
And, when his treatments were complete, Mills approached his recovery with pragmatism and his trademark humor: "I thought, 'Well, I'm glad that's done," he said.
But make no mistake — Mills embraces each day, and says without the efforts of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering organization, under which Fred's Team was founded, he would not be here today to indulge in his passions for ice boating and sailing, race car driving and running marathons.
Fred's Team was born in 1991, when Memorial Sloan-Kettering teamed up with running luminary Fred Lebow, creator of the New York City Marathon.
Lebow shared Mills' upbeat approach to life: Even while undergoing treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Lebow jogged the halls of the hospital.
In 1992, Lebow completed the New York City Marathon and began urging other runners to find sponsors and raise funds for Memorial Sloan-Kettering. To date, Fred's Team has raised over $23 million, with runners crossing finish lines around the world in Fred's name.
Mills admits there have been times when facing mortality hasn't been easy. During one race, Mills found himself running past the hospital where he'd lost a relative to cancer with tears running down his face. "This race is for him," said Mills. "And for my mother, and everyone who fought to survive."
But it's not only about looking back with sadness — the journey, for Mills, symbolizes hope for a day when a cure will be found and losing loved ones and children to cancer is a thing of the past. That's why he's reaching out to friends, relatives and corporate sponsors in the hope that through their combined generosity, he will be able to achieve — and even surpass — his target goal of $25,000. "I have made an initial donation of $1000. With your help, I hope to see this amount grow exponentially," he wrote in his donation request letter.
As for Mills, he's training hard, hoping for a personal best this year with a finish in under 3 hours, 50 minutes. But no matter what his ultimate time, Mills will emerge a winner, having run the race of his life for legions of others whose spirits have enabled him to soar. And for all of those who donate funds to help him reach his goal — and the finish line — Mills has a vow: "I promise I'll run my derriere off for you!"
To make an online donation using a credit card, visit mskcc.org/mskcc/html/14322.cfm. In the left hand column, locate the "Make A Donation," bar, then click where indicated to find a team member and enter William J. Mills, III, Greenport, NY; select the 2006 ING event. Checks can be mailed to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Attn: Fred's Team, P.O. Box 27432, New York, NY 10087-7432. Include Mills' runner ID number (999036209) and the ING New York City race code (EO6MPDNY) on checks.