Ventana Medical Team in Training


Team Ventana includes Crystal Diaz, left, Sherry Shellouff, Max Ridgeway, Janice Ridgeway, Pat Schumann and Catty Soto.

Courtesy photo

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training has been the Arizona Distance Classic Half Marathon’s benefitting charity for several years, and Ventana Medical Systems hosts the race’s start and finish line areas.

But the connection between the two organizations and the Arizona Distance Classic runs much deeper for a team of six Ventana employees who will run the race’s 10th Anniversary edition to raise funds for Team In Training.

“I like participating in Team In Training because, knowing that cancer still exists, we need to find a cure because there are many patients and families that are affected by this illness,” said Catty Soto, who has participated in Team In Training’s Team Ventana for the past four years.

“I keep participating in the TNT program because I am doing something I like that keeps me healthy and at the same time I am doing something for someone else.”

The six members of Team Ventana are Soto, Pat Schumann, Sherry Shellouf, Crystal Diaz, Janice Ridgeway and Max Ridgeway. Each committed to raising at least $1,250 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through participating in the race, with the six members raising more than $13,000 this year.

“I think it’s fantastic that Team Ventanta raised that much money with just six team members,” said Shannon Gaines, a Tucson-based campaign coordinator for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “Many of their members participate in the Arizona Distance Classic every year, and they should be commended for their commitment to the cause.”

In addition, Ventana Medical Systems will match a large percentage of the $13,000 through a corporate program for cancer-related charities. “The mission of Ventana is to ‘Improve the love of patients afflicted with cancer’ and it is in perfect alignment with the goals of LLC,” Soto said.

Soto’s first Team In Training event was the Arizona Distance Classic in 2011.

“Because I enjoyed it so much, I decided to make it my goal to participate in at least one TNT event per year,” she said. “This is my sixth event with TNT and I keep loving it.”

The Arizona Distance Classic remains one of her favorite events, Soto said.

“The race is very well organized, we have plenty of water stations and the organizers and volunteers are amazing,” she said. “The race they race (hires people to finish last) takes away the pressure from some competitors. I feel really safe on the course and there are plenty of spectators.

“Plus, the beauty of the Arizona desert and the weather. During the race we see cactus, trees, of course, the wonderful Catalina Mountains.”

The TNT team in Tucson offers training and fund-raising programs for four events each year, including the Arizona Distance Classic, the Tucson Marathon, and the P.F. Chang’s Marathon in Phoenix. Programs for cycling or triathlon events are also offered at times.

Team In Training has 12 members participating in the Arizona Distance Classic. Each commits to raising at least $1,250 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in exchange for a free race entry and coaching and training program.

Since 1988, more than 625,000 participants in Team In Training have raised more than $1.4 billion for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The Team In Training program also provides volunteers for running and other events. This weekend, Team In Training members and volunteers will work nearly 100 hours at All About Running & Walking, where the nearly 2,000 runners and walkers will pick up their race packets.

“We have hundreds of TNT alumni in the Tucson area that come back year after year to either fund-raise and participate in a race or volunteer,” Gaines said. “They are all alumni of the program and are just like a big family.”

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