June 30, 2011


Trio takes cancer fight on the road

They are training for October marathon to raise money for research

MarathonJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
From left, John and Karen Burns, and Patti Trabucco run together Wednesday in Cortland and are currently training for a marathon that will raise money for cancer research.

Staff Reporter

Sisters Patti Trabucco and Karen Burns have a Sunday custom: breakfast at their family farm in Harford.
One recent Sunday at breakfast, Trabucco told Burns that she had run 14 miles that morning. Her father, Ward Tillotson, said, “I thought I raised you to be smarter than that.”
They all laughed, knowing the two women and Burns’ husband, John, are running a marathon in October to raise money for research to stop blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma — inspired by their father, nephew, sister and a mutual friend, all of whom have a blood cancer or are recovering from one.
The three Cortland residents will run in Team in Training’s designated fundraiser for the Western and Central New York Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a national nonprofit that raises money for research.
John Burns, 39, and Trabucco, 35, will run the full 26-mile course while Karen Burns, 38, will run a half-marathon, all on San Francisco’s hilly streets.
They have been seeking donations and will continue until the race, through recycling bottles and cans and having their own pages on the society’s website. Each has committed to raising $3,200 but they plan to go beyond that.
Coming up are a skeet shooting event at Homer Rod and Gun Club on July 16, and a chicken barbecue by the Masonic Lodge in Marathon on July 23.
The trio has four bins set up for collecting bottles and cans — in front of Trabucco’s house in Cortland and in Homer, Virgil and Locke. The bins are marked with the Team in Training banner.
“We’ve gotten about 12,000 cans in three weeks,” John Burns said.
Some of the money will cover their travel expenses to California, but most of that is covered by Nike and JetBlue, sponsors for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The daily training has pushed all three to cover more miles on foot than they ever have. Trabucco and John Burns have been running for 10 years, Karen Burns for six years, but each has added about 10 to 15 miles per week as they prepare for the grueling marathon.
They are motivated by a need to help people.
Another Tillotson sister, Linda Foster, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in August 2009. She is in remission.
Ward Tillotson, a Babcock Hollow Road dairy farmer, was diagnosed with the same disease in March and is being treated.
Two days later the trio’s friend Joe Lyman, who ran a marathon in Corning last October for Team in Training, was diagnosed with the same illness and is being treated.
John Burns’ nephew, Cody Stockton of McLean, who will be a senior at Dryden High School, is undergoing treatment for leukemia.
So Trabucco and the Burnses decided to run more each week and compete in the marathon, for the cause of fighting blood cancers. All three were athletes, the sisters at Marathon High School and John Burns — who also grew up in Harford — at Dryden High School, so they saw the challenge.
“We’ve looked at the course on computer, and it’s going to be tough,” Trabucco said. “But people who are ill with these diseases don’t get to choose how easy their treatment is. Their treatment is a challenge every day. Cody should’ve been at school but instead he was at Golisano Children’s Hospital (in Syracuse), being treated.”
Karen Burns is a Tompkins County probation officer, who met Lyman when she worked as a Cortland County probation officer and he was a social worker, and when they both studied for master’s degrees at Syracuse University.
Lyman, a city Board of Education member and Boy Scout leader, is now a family therapist in Tompkins County. He has continued to run since being diagnosed.
His friends added him to their list of people to run for.
John Burns is a district manager for Auto Zone, so he trains in either the morning or evening, depending on his schedule. The sisters usually run in the morning, on the streets of Cortland.
Trabucco is a teacher at Appleby Elementary School in the Marathon school district. She said she has received enormous support from her husband, Jason, who helps look after their triplets, Tucker, Barrett and Abigail, age 3 1/2.
“We’re running now for family and friends but also in hopes that my three children will never have a blood cancer — or that anyone will,” Trabucco said.
To donate, go to the Team in Training website at and seek individual runners’ web pages by name under “donate.”

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