Young survivor of brain tumor calls on volunteers

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OLD BRIDGE – A young woman has turned her own experiences into an opportunity to help others.

Tara Mitchell, 23, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2010 and missed much of her senior year at Old Bridge High School (OBHS). In the early part of her senior year, she began to suffer unbearable headaches and double vision. A shocking diagnosis revealed a brain tumor, which required several surgeries and yet stubbornly returned.

“I’ve become accepting of the cards I’ve been dealt and am doing what I can to make the most of them. My fire is lit and my fight will never end,” Mitchell said.

As the former volunteer chairperson for the New York City walk and the current New Jersey chairperson of the Brain Tumor Society Walk, set for April 2 in Asbury Park, she returned to her alma mater to enlist the aid of Peer Leaders to assist at the fundraiser.

“We are looking to spread awareness,” Mitchell told the 180 teens in the audience, sharing that she was also a peer leader when she attended OBHS. “It will be a bigger success if you were there with me.”

After Mitchell said she was looking to sign up 60 volunteers to help with the walk and for a team to walk on the boardwalk in the 5K event, dozens of students signed up to monitor lines, greet walkers, distribute water and participate in the walk. The teens also signed up to assist participants in writing messages and hanging photos of loved ones on the “hope” and “memory” banners.

“This is a good opportunity to pay it forward,” said Jamie Brown, who heads Old Bridge’s Peer Leadership Program. “Someone is asking us to be part of her cause.”

According to the National Brain Tumor Society, nearly 700,000 people in the United States are living with a primary brain tumor and an estimated 69,000 will receive this devastating diagnosis this year, with more than 4,000 being children.

“Receiving a brain tumor diagnosis is a life-altering moment for patients and their loved ones,” said David Arons, CEO of the National Brain Tumor Society. “The prognosis for this patient population is often devastating, but there is hope on the horizon. Every dollar raised allows us to continue funding vital research and policy initiatives to accelerate the discovery of new scientific breakthroughs and increase the availability of more and better treatments for patients.”

Funds raised from the April 2 event will help the National Brain Tumor Society fund strategic research initiatives aimed at finding new therapies for both adult and pediatric brain tumors, empower the brain tumor community advocates for government programs and policies to strengthen research, and provide helpful online information support resources to the brain tumor community.

Registration is set for 7:30-8 a.m., with a 9 a.m. kickoff.

For more information, visit www.BrainTumorWalk.org/CentralNewJersey or call 516-946-0426.