The first thing you notice when meeting Jay Tysoski is how you feel like you’ve known him for a long time, when, in reality, you’ve just met him. He’s outgoing, personable and makes you feel at ease right away. As he’d say, “I’m a lot like my Mom.”
It’s a fitting tribute, as Jay’s Mom, Susan, passed away in August 2010 from a rare endocrine cancer, yet her spirit lives on through him. “She was an amazing person who seemed to know everyone,” said Jay. “She was kind, caring and always looking out for others to make sure they were OK.”
Upon her passing, Jay was understandably overcome with grief. But he decided not to submit to it – instead he decided to help support others, much like his Mom had always done. And so, ‘Run with Me TBay’ was born – a fundraiser for the Northern Cancer Fund of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation.
In order to raise funds, Jay challenged himself to run in his first ever Men’s Health Urbanathlon in Chicago – a grueling, eleven-mile endurance race featuring city landmarks and ten urban obstacles. Friends, family, and members of the Thunder Bay community realized the significant challenge that Jay had taken on and pledged him in anticipation of race day.
That first year, Jay recalls thinking about his Mom when he was racing, especially in the tough moments. “She couldn’t quit when she was going through her chemo, she always fought hard,” he said. “I’d remember that and get the drive to keep going.”
He fondly recalls crossing over the finish line in 2011 – and feeling an incredible sense of achievement. “You have no idea what you can do until you try,” he said. “When I thought up the name ‘Run with Me TBay’, it was really strategic – I wanted to encourage everyone to try something that they think they could never do – you may surprise yourself with what’s possible.”
What he didn’t know that first year was that two of his best friends, Kris Evans and Kyle Baysarowich, would join him in running the Urbanathlon in 2012 and raise even more money for the Northern Cancer Fund.
“Watching those two guys cross the finish line and being there for them as they completed the Urbanathlon challenge was definitely the highlight of the race for me in 2012,” said Jay. “I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to have them racing with me.”
Needless to say, with three men running the Urbanathlon in 2012, fundraising efforts were tripled, and, in just two shorts years, ‘Run with Me TBay’, raised over $7,000 for the Northern Cancer Fund. Funds from 2011 were directed to the Northern Cancer Fund in memory of Jay’s mother Susan, while in 2012 funds were specifically directed to the WE-Can program – a 10 week Wellness and Exercise program for individuals living with Cancer.
“My Mom was a very active person and since our fundraising efforts were associated with a very physical activity, I wanted money raised to go to a program that would help others feel better by being active,” said Jay. “I know when I’m training, I feel better mentally and physically and I know it’s important for cancer patients to stay active for those same reasons.”
“We’re extremely grateful to Jay and all the supporters of ‘Run with Me TBay’ for dedicating the funds to the Northern Cancer Fund to support our Cancer Centre,” said Joanne Lacourciere, Program Director, Regional Cancer Care. “Our goal is to provide Exceptional Cancer Care and these funds are helping us accomplish that.”
While Jay, Kris and Kyle were unable to participate in the 2013 Men’s Health Urbanathlon for a variety of personal reasons, they continued their fundraising legacy with a ‘Run with Me Tbay’ golf tournament, held in September. This year, $4,625 was raised to support the Patient Navigation Desk in the Garden of Hope at the Regional Cancer Centre in Thunder Bay.
“It was important to all of us that patients feel welcomed when they enter the Cancer Centre,” said Jay. “This was a perfect opportunity to ensure that we can provide that extra level of support in what can be a very overwhelming experience.”
As for plans for 2014? “We’ve all agreed that we’re on board 100 per cent for next year!” said Jay. Supporters can follow ‘Run with Me TBay’ on Facebook at facebook.com/runwithmetbay