How I decided to turn physical activity into support for my son suffering from Neurofibromatosis.
A Father's Love, An Athlete's Dedication
The essence of fatherhood is to provide and protect. These duties of love take many forms but always demand an unwavering commitment from the father to guide their children along the path of personal growth.
So what happens when you can't protect your child from a disease? When you can't provide the answers for a remedy?
If you're Todd Mozzer, you run…and swim and cycle—all in grueling tests of personal strength and perseverance to support those who can provide a cure.
In the late 1990s, Todd had no plans to continuously push himself to the limit in this way. But then his 5-year-old son, Trevor, was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerve endings and can affect bone, skin, vision, hearing and brain development.
Trevor was active and vibrant with boundless energy, learning about the world with each leap he took. But he didn't understand the light-brown spots that appeared on his skin, a sign of NF. Trevor became one of more than 2 million people worldwide who live with NF. The disease is more prevalent than cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Huntington's Disease combined.
NF affects equally males and females, regardless of race or ethnicity. Nearly 50% of people living with the disease have no family history of NF, but the disease developed from spontaneous gene mutation at conception.
'I'm A Guy Who Doesn't Stop'
Todd was inspired to act on Trevor's behalf, and he turned to an unlikely source for answers—his own body. Trevor's energy became his father's.
"Two months after Trevor's diagnosis, I competed in my first marathon in Hawaii," Todd said. Thus began his dedication to raising funds and competing in endurance events to support what is now known as the Children's Tumor Foundation.
He became part of the foundation's NF Endurance Team, organizing and participating in road races, 24-hour swimming events, marathons, triathlons and "everything to try to raise funds and awareness," he said. "I'm a guy who doesn't stop. My focus is about Trevor."
Trevor, who is now 19, continues to live with NF and has not experienced many of the serious side effects of the disease. His younger brother Andrew, who is 17, does not have NF. Both boys are at the center of Todd's life.
As other personal relationships have disintegrated recently, Todd's passion to assist the Children's Tumor Foundation has been reignited and he's approaching his mission with intense focus.
The $100K Challenge
After competing in 12 marathons for the NF Endurance Team and personally raising $70,000 a decade ago, Todd has found a new personal challenge.
He will compete in the 2012 Leadville Race Series in the Colorado Rockies from late June to late August, taking on what is known as the Epic Challenge. The high-altitude events include the Leadville Trail Marathon along old mining roads and trails; the Leadville 10K run across portions of that same trail; the Leadville Trail 100-mile run; the Leadville Trail 100-mile mountain bike ride; and the Leadville Silver Rush 50-mile mountain bike ride.
His goal is to raise $100,000 by June 2012.
"The only thing I can do is what I know, and I know I can do this," Todd said. "I need to help others to tell myself I'm still here. I can heal because someone else helped by the Foundation is able to heal."
The Children's Tumor Foundation isn't the only beneficiary of Todd's extreme, fearless efforts. He's also passionate about a cause that stems from traumatic events of his own childhood.