July 12, 2024

Wittenberg University’s second annual Race Against the Odds event occurred this past Sunday hosted by The Cure Starts Now Foundation. But the real story lies within The Cure Starts Now foundation’s connection to Wittenberg. AJ Burt, a junior student at Wittenberg and a member of the Wittenberg Men’s Swimming and Diving Team, has close ties with the foundation’s cause.
The 5K was sponsored by the Class of 2015. Burt is the president of the 2015 class and was responsible for the event.
The race was dedicated to the memory of Elena Desserich, a six-year-old girl who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and passed away soon afterwards. Burt was Elena Desserich’s coach when she was first diagnosed.
“Her diagnosis prevented her from doing what she loved, which also happened to be my love – swimming,” said Burt. “That’s why I’ve latched onto the cause. It is so close to my heart.”
The Cure Starts Now foundation was created by the parents of Elena Desserich in her honor.
Burt commented, “It (the foundation) started with journal entries posted on a family blog site and now it’s an international organization with multiple Good Morning America appearances, a New York Times best-selling book entitled ‘Notes Left Behind,’ and even more potential to keep growing across the globe.”
Although the number of runners declined this year from last year’s race, Burt said that the race was still a success.
“We only had about 30 runners, which is way down from last year’s nearly 100,” said Burt. “It was especially hard this year with the timing of everything, let alone that it’s a college campus and not a lot of people have expendable money to spend. However, we had nearly all of our costs covered so we net nearly 100% donation, which is fantastic!”
Burt said that the race raised $975 thus far and he expected more donations to come in eventually. The event was moved from Saturday to Sunday to accommodate the Wittenberg Track and Field Invitational, which Burt said could have accounted for the decline in numbers.
The Class of 2015 is looking to continue the efforts of the Race Against the Odds event next year. Burt is hoping that the new event continues its success on Wittenberg’s campus and is hoping for even more support next race. Because of his personal connection with the cause, Burt said that he and his family have supported The Cure Starts Now foundation regularly through donations of their time and resources.
“It’s so close to my heart,” commented Burt.
The race was open to the general public and was completed on campus. Burt said that Wittenberg University is the first college campus to host a Race Against the Odds event. Participants included Wittenberg students, Springfield residents, as well as some Wittenberg alumni who came in from Columbus.

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