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Hitting the ground running

Provost raising money for cancer victims with 300-mile run through New England

Tawnia Provost sits at her desk at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake on Friday. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — Tawnia Provost has been an avid runner for more than half her life.

This year at the end of June, the 2012 graduate of Saranac Central School and SUNY Potsdam alumna will step into a new adventure as a runner, and at the same time, she will be honoring cancer victims as well as helping them.

Starting on June 22, Provost will take some vacation days away from her job as the circulation manager at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise to participate in the Eastern Trek For Cancer, a week-long, 300-mile fundraiser run through New England states.

It would be tough to find a person not touched by cancer, and Provost was especially hit hard by the disease. As a 19-year-old, Provost saw her mother Rebecca endure four painful months of esophageal cancer that ended her life at the young age of 48.

Now, four years later, Provost will be running in memory of her mom and others she knows who were affected by cancer, and she’ll also meet and spend time with cancer patients and their families while on a journey across four New England states. Provost will be a member of a 13-runner group that will cover a route that starts in Portland, Maine and finishes in Manhattan, not far from Ground Zero. And as Provost and her teammates run through a chunk of New England, they’ll be raising money to assist cancer patients and their families. Each runner plans to raise a minimum amount of $2,500, with Provost setting her goal at $3,000.

Tawnia Provost nears the finish line during the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Fun Run in February. (Enterprise file photo — Lou Reuter)

Know as the Eastern Trek For Cancer’s 2018 team, the runners, who are all in their 20s, will take on a set route in a relay type format with two support vans. Each participant will run between 10 and 15 miles per day. The team will run for six days, and stop for a mid-week, day-long layover in Springfield, Massachusetts. Along the way, the team will be visiting cancer centers where they will provide supplies to patients who are undergoing treatment.

June will mark the fourth year in a row that the Eastern Trek For Cancer has made its way across New England, and Matt Dexter, who started the event, also in memory of his mother, will again be along for the run. Dexter’s mom died from cancer at age 47 when he was young, and in order to give back, the resident of Bangor, Maine, started the Christine B. Foundation. Dexter, along with this year’s 12 Eastern Trek runners, will raise a minimum of $2,500 each that will be spent on a variety of items to help patients, including blankets and socks. The run also raises scholarship money each year.

Like Dexter, Provost said giving back to a community that assisted her and her family when they were in need is one of her inspirations for taking on the trek. Provost said finally, after four years, the time was right to get involved.

Provost said she first learned about the Christine B. Foundation and the Eastern Trek For Cancer from a former classmate at Saranac Central.

“I was in my sophomore year of college when my mom had cancer,” Provost said. “Between studying abroad, getting internships, graduating and getting a job, everything just moved so quickly and before I knew it it had been three years since she passed away and I really hadn’t done anything to give back to the cancer community.

“I’ve done Relay for Life but nothing as extensive as I wanted to,” she continued. “I had a friend who I went to high school with and played soccer with. She reached out to me in 2017 and said ‘I’m doing this really great event, you should sign up.’ Everything was so hectic then I couldn’t commit to doing something next week let alone next summer. I made the decision early last fall that I was going to do this. Right from there, I hit the ground running.”

Provost and the rest of her teammates all tell their stories about how they’ve been affected by cancer on their fundraising pages, which can be found at www.chrisbfund.org.

“Not until I was the one sitting beside my mom while she received chemotherapy did I quite understand what it meant to feel helpless,” Provost writes on her fundraising page. “Luckily, I had a phenomenal support team to lean on. Among other things, I want to be able to provide even the smallest bit of comfort to someone who is fighting, or fighting alongside someone with cancer.”

Dexter said he’s thrilled to have Provost as part of the team, and added she’s already stepped forward and will be one of the leaders of the group.

“I know Tawnia’s connection is incredibly strong in really honoring her mother,” Dexter said. “The fact that she stepped up and wants to be a leader says so much. Not only am I confident that she’ll be a great leader with the team, but I’m sure she’ll continue to be committed to the more local network that she’s already a part of.”

Dexter said in addition to helping others, the Eastern Trek For Cancer will also play a role in the growth of the young runners while providing them a life-changing experience.

“The beauty of this program is it brings together people from all walks of life,” Dexter said. “These runners are all young, and this is a way they can step out of their own comfort zone and really invest in themselves. We’re bringing together people who have never met, and I’ve already seen how it has forged life-long friendships.”

Provost said that team members range from seasoned runners to those who are less experienced. Provost said she’s confident that she’ll be ready to go.

“Some of them this will be their first go-around,” she said. “Some have done 5Ks or color runs. There are some who are strong runners and others who have run a 5K and that was it. We have a good mix of people coming together and I think that’s the best part.”

“I was always a runner.” Provost said. “I ran track from seventh grade on. I’ve always found running to be a healing type of thing. I’m able to get out and that’s the best time to think. It’s the time of the day when everything just calms down, and especially after my mom passed away, I found myself leaning on it more and more. It wasn’t just a 2-mile run. I’d just take off — 5,6,7,8, 10, 13 miles.”

In addition to her mom, another cancer victim Provost will be remembering is Brian Falb, a New York state trooper from the Plattsburgh area who died in March 2017. Falb was one of the first responders at Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, and he died at age 47 after contracting brain cancer at the site. Provost attended school with one of Falb’s three daughters and reached out to her regarding her intentions to honor Trooper Falb.

“It’s not only Trooper Falb. There are so many people that were at ground zero who are now dying from this disease,” Provost said. “They just went down to help. They weren’t the people who were killed immediately. They are the people 15, 20 years out who are getting brain cancer, they are getting blood cancer, they are getting all of these things that were associated with going to Ground Zero. We’re going to be concluding at Pier 45, which is a hop, skip and a jump away from ground zero.”

After two days of getting to know each other and preparing for the run, the team will begin their trip on June 24 and is scheduled to conclude the journey on June 30. Stops along the way include Hampton, New Hampshire, Littleton and Springfield, Massachusetts, New Milford, Connecticut, and of course, the run’s terminus in New York City. On June 25, the team will visit the Lowell General Hospital Cancer Center in Massachusetts and two days later, runners will stop in Hartford, Connecticut at the St. Francis Medical Center.

“We visit people who are doing their chemotherapy treatments and we tell them about our mission and provide them with socks and blankets and things that people who are going through chemotherapy desperately need because the chemicals they are using are adversely affecting their bodies,” Provost said. “I’m just looking forward to giving back to a community that has given me so much. Even after everything that had happened with my mom, there were still people who were reaching out to me and doing things for me that they didn’t have to do.”

Provost doesn’t plan on stopping running any time soon after participating in the Eastern Trek For Cancer. In November, she plans to tackle the Philadelphia Marathon, in part, because it’s an American-accredited cancer research event.

To become a sponsor for Provost, or for more information, visit chrisbfund.org,, click on Eastern Trek 2018 Team and go to Tawnia Provost’s fundraising page.

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