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Childhood cancer treatment inspires Ottawa woman’s half-marathon fundraiser

Six months of hard work is about to pay off for Jill Barr as she gets ready to run her first half-marathon.

“I’ve always been an athlete. I played varsity volleyball in university and now that I’ve retired from that, I’m always kind of searching for that competitive outlet,” said Barr.

She’s one of thousands training for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. For her, it’s personal.

She and her team are raising money for the Ottawa Hospital, where she was treated for ovarian cancer when she was 11 years old.

“I went there for my first radiation treatment,” said Barr. “They could sense I was a little bit nervous, so they actually gave me a little plasma car, which is a little scooter bike that I could ride from the entranceway down to the radiation centre, and I have a very fond memory of that. It goes to show how focused the Ottawa Hospital is on patient care.”

It’s stories like Barr’s that are motivating eager participants picking up their race kits ahead of the big day.

“You think of the Ottawa Race Weekend and you think of just the runners, and you watch the elites and you maybe have some friends and family, and then when you get to the stories behind why some people are running, it really makes the event seem so much bigger than the race,” said Run Ottawa executive director Mike Vieira.

The event is celebrating 50 years and it’s also a big year for 98 charities with a goal to raise more than $1 million.

This weekend will welcome more than 37,000 participants — 10,000 more than last year — including some elite athletes introduced by CTV’s Leah Larocque on Friday, who is herself and accomplished marathoner.

“There’s over $1 million this year that we’re hoping to raise,” said Vieira. “We’ve raised over $5 million over the past five years. So, in terms of charities in Ottawa, this is one of the big fundraisers for many charities by far.”

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe will be running the marathon, helping raise funds for Dhanushka Wickramasinghe, the father and husband of the Barrhaven homicide victims.

As for Barr, her team has raised closed to $5,000 for the Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

“There is kind of a community responsibility to come together and raise that extra money so we can get the best health care possible in the city of Ottawa,” said Barr. 

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