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'She will be with me in spirit'

May 23, 2012 - Jessica Pete ran track in high school and college, but put running aside several years ago after finishing school.

Now the 31-year-old first grade teacher at Belle Ann Elementary teacher is running again and fighting back against cancer, inspired by her late colleague and longtime friend Kristi Martin.

Pete signed up in February for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, just a few weeks after the death of Martin, a Brandon School District speech therapist, wife and mother of three young children.

While Pete says she always wanted to do the 3-Day, Martin's fight against the disease gave her the push she needed to commit to training and raising the $2,300 required to participate in the 60-mile event scheduled for Aug 17-19 in southeast Michigan.

"Kristi was always a teacher, even with the cancer, she always had something positive to say," recalls Pete, a Goodrich resident. "She had a good outlook on everything, and always encouraging words for everyone else. She was a happy, positive, inspiring person."

Pete is on a 16-week training plan to get ready for the walk. She began by finding local walks, but enjoys running more than walking.

"I'm hoping this comes back to me, it's been a long time," said Pete, who used to run up to 10 miles per day in college. "You don't realize how in shape you were, until you're out of shape trying to do this."

She is now running and walking 2-3 miles per day, often with her two Doberman pinscher dogs. Once summer begins, she plans to increase her mileage to five miles per day, increasing to 10 miles per day by July.

Pete began fundraising for the event immediately after signing up, making and selling cake pops and T-shirts, hosting a bake sale at parent-teacher conferences, selling donated coffee "cozies" and asking friends to donate at the 3daywalk.org website by typing in "Team Martin."

Pete is joined on the team by her friends Alison Matthes and Jenn Shay, who must also raise $2,300 each to walk. A Family Fun Day and Bonfire Bash to help "Team Martin" achieve their fundraising goal will be at 5:30 p.m., June 2, at 1887 Ansal Drive, Rochester Hills, MI 48307. A donation of $15 per adult is requested, $2 for kids 12 and under. A live band, DJ, bounce houses, and a variety of food is planned for the event.

"I am happy I can give back," said Pete of her planned 3-Day walk. "I'm giving to those who are battling cancer, giving to those who battled and didn't make it and battling for those who may have cancer in the future— it could be me, my sister, my Mom. You've got to keep fighting and this is the way I can participate in the fight against breast cancer. Just knowing how positive Kristi was, if she was still here she would be walking with me. She will be with me in spirit and her name will be on my shirt. It will be for her and for everyone else."

For more information on the Family Fun Day and Bonfire Bash, e-mail alimatthes@wideopenwest.com.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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