Jenn Sommermann: Triathlete for a Cure
Each teal pushpin represents a state Jenn has crossed off her list, and each purple pushpin contains a link to press about her campaign. Click the pins for more information on each stop of her campaign! To view the map in a larger window, along with an ordered timeline of races and press coverage, click here.
When 45-year-old Jenn Sommermann approached OCRF in 2009 with the ambitious goal to compete in 50 triathlons in all 50 states, by the age of 50, to raise $100,000 for ovarian cancer research, it was hard not to notice that any one piece of this campaign, alone – all 50 states, all $100,000, all in 5 years, and fully self-funded – would be a feat by itself. But then again, if anyone could take on such incredible odds and prove successful, it would be Jenn Sommermann.
She completed her first triathlon in 2005, at the age of 40. At the time, it was a fun challenge to take on with a good friend across the country. They trained together virtually, and when it was over, Jenn decided she wanted to race more. She kept at it. And two years later, it was the sport of triathlon that Jenn would credit with giving her the keen awareness of her body that allowed her to recognize the subtle symptoms of ovarian cancer.
How It All Began
Jenn’s relationship with Ovarian Cancer Research Fund began while she was still in the hospital bed, receiving chemo treatment. While flipping through the pages of Triathlete Magazine, she happened upon an advertisement for the U.S. Women’s Triathlon Series, an all-women race for which OCRF was the official charitable partner. She resolved to participate in the triathlon when she got better. Not long after, she participated in not one, but three races in the series. As a member of OCRF Team Hope, she pledged to raise a minimum of $500 for each race, but the motivation stemming from her recent battle, coupled with her love of triathlons and the support of her family and friends, propelled her to the top fundraising spot on the special team of survivors and women racing for loved ones, resulting in $15,000 for ovarian cancer research and the birth of a big idea to make an even bigger difference.
The 50x50x100 Campaign
In 2009, for the first official season of her campaign, Jenn raced in 5 new states, and along the way cultivated a presence not to be missed on any course. Riding a teal bike, wearing custom teal triathlon gear featuring the OCRF logo, and handing out business cards, she was easily spotted in a crowd. That was all it took to get the word out not just about her campaign, but about the need for more awareness and research to fight ovarian cancer. In an early blog post from Norwalk, Connecticut, she writes, “The women who were racked in transition near me wanted to know what all the fuss was about. The conversation then turned to symptoms of ovarian cancer and how to spot them. By the time I was finished, I had about 25 women around me listening and learning about the subtle symptoms of ovarian cancer. It was terrific. Yes, fundraising is important but carrying the message IS the most important reason I am racing. If each of these women tells ten of their friends, then 250 women were reached that day.”
With every stop on her 50-state campaign, Jenn has created a steady wave of awareness and fundraising, educating audience after audience not only about ovarian cancer, but that research is the key to changing the future of the disease.
Although Jenn is a shining example of someone who caught her disease early, she knows she’s lucky. Early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is not typical. Knowing that many of the women who would be advocates have in fact succumbed to the disease keeps her moving forward.
And move forward she does, at a steady pace with an ever-expanding national reach. In the past five years, Jenn’s natural charisma, positive energy, and genuine desire to connect with her audience have led to innumerable speaking engagements, from impromptu talks on the course to educational speeches on corporate podiums. At every venue, she is approached with gratitude by all those affected, either personally or through a loved one’s fight against ovarian cancer.
Impressing the Press
The ovarian cancer community is better for having Jenn as an advocate, and this has not gone unnoticed by the press. A quick search online for Jenn Sommermann, or a visit to her blog, reveals a multitude of articles, television and radio interviews, photos, and event appearances across the country.
Nationally broadcast videos with OCRF’s longtime partner QVC, as well as espnW, NBC News, and more, have given Jenn’s campaign a reach that not only spreads her message, but inspires others to create their own campaigns for ovarian cancer research.
5 States to Go, and Stronger Than Ever
Occasionally, Jenn stops by the OCRF offices to drop off donations and alert us to new media coverage she’s received in her travels. While she displays a calm, rested and relaxed appearance, we never forget the incredible level of activity evidenced by her blog, press coverage, and race results. That her campaign to train and travel throughout the country is only one piece of a schedule also filled with jobs, family, and other life obligations, is testament to her strong will and determination. And that every expense associated with her campaign – plane tickets, bike shipments, race fees, and much more – is paid by Jenn herself demonstrates her solemn belief in the need for keeping the wheels of scientific progress in motion.
As she closes in on the final state of her incredible journey – November 24th in Hawaii, and not by accident – Jenn has achieved countless milestones. She has, at the time of this writing, raised $95,000 for Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. She has shared her experience with millions of people. She has gotten in amazing shape. But she has not put her experience with ovarian cancer behind her, or crossed it off her to-do list. When her campaign is over, she plans to continue her quest to educate and push for research progress. And, speaking on behalf of the ovarian cancer community, we could not be happier.
Funding the Fight
Jenn’s campaign isn’t over yet, and there’s still time to give her a final push toward the big $100,000 goal to fund ovarian cancer research. You can show your support by donating here, or leaving a message of encouragement on her blog. Check out the map above to see if she’s visited your state (odds are, she has) and if not, take a look at her upcoming races and go cheer her on as she crosses the finish line!
How It All Ended
In Hawaii on November 24th, with 22 family members and friends, all with their toes painted teal in loving support – the women and the men – Jenn Sommermann completed the Lavaman Triathlon Series, the final triathlon of her 5-year campaign. As she approached the finish line, OCRF had arranged to surprise her with a special banner hanging on the race route. She’s pictured below with the banner and her posse.
Jenn has exceeded her fundraising goal, raising an incredible $107,115 for ovarian cancer research! So, what will she do now that the campaign is over? “The next chapter will reveal itself when it’s time,” says Jenn. “New beginnings will make themselves known and that is a very exciting prospect. Simple lessons…continue to search for what makes you happy, embrace change, stay in the moment, and know that new beginnings are always available.”