"Dollars + research = survivors:" Run with Wolfes event raises thousands for brain tumor research

MENOMONEE FALLS (WITI) -- Brain cancer took their son in 1999. In the midst of their grief, Jerry and Nancy Wolfe decided to take fighting brain cancer into their own hands.

450 people took part in a walk on a late September Sunday in Menomonee Falls, and they came with a purpose.

"This cancer affected a papa, a dad and a husband. We want to kill cancer just like it took away our husband, dad and grandfather," Betty Brunner said.

Brunner's husband Dale died of brain cancer -- and "Team Dale" was out in full force for the "Run with Wolfes" walk. Dale Brunner fought valiantly, but lost his battle in August.

"Dale Brunner was one wonderful man. He was a Milwaukee police officer in the city for 31 years. He was a deputy sheriff. His passion was to help special causes, such as this one and brain cancer research," Betty Brunner said.

The Brunner family has been involved in the "Run with Wolfes" fundraiser for all of its 15 years.

"When Dale had his brain surgery, when he was discharged, we went directly over to the park to do the walk. He walked the run/walk with us. We miss him more than anyone will know. If we don't find a way to cure cancer, the disease will continue to strike other people just like my husband, and just like other people's children. We want to defeat this disease. The only way it'll be defeated is with research," Betty Brunner said.

Mary Beth Elberson lost her brother, Mark LaFond to brain cancer. Her family members call themselves "The LaFond Lifesavers" in Mark's honor.

"Mark was a warrior. He battled this disease that we are raising money to fight for over 10 years. He actually did the run. We pushed him in a wheelchair on a paved route in Menomonee Falls -- so he was a fighter. He was very loyal to his family and friends. He was an all around great guy," Elberson said.

Mark LaFond was just 33 when he was diagnosed in 2001. He was given a year or two to live -- and he died 10 years later.

Being at the "Run with Wolfes" event is where LaFond's family says they had to be.

"It's a way for us to honor his memory and to do something together as a group -- to remember 'Uncle Mark' as most of these kids refer to him -- but also to get together with other families that have had similar situations. It's a very unusual group of people that have had to survive as families going through a terrible situation like that. It's an instant bond with people who have experienced the same thing you have,"

The "Run with Wolfes" and "Golf with Wolfes" events were started by Eric Wolfe's family. Eric Wolfe was a UW-Madison grad student when he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1991. He survived almost five years before passing away in 1996 at the age of 28. Like others who came after him, Eric Wolfe lived every second to its fullest.

"Yes he did. I mean, he never complained. We have a lot of friends that have supported us and supported brain tumor research. He's very missed. Very much so," Eric Wolfe's dad, Jerry Wolfe said.

"I hear all these stories about how my brother's so much like him and how we all possess qualities of him, and I wish I could have met him because he seemed like he had it all figured out. He had such a good heart. I wish more than anything that I got to meet him," Wolfe's niece Madison Olson said.

Jerry Wolfe knows the incredible pain of losing a child, but thanks to the efforts of the Wolfe family, his spirit lives -- touching and helping countless others.

"Brain tumor research is underfunded. We're just tying to raise as much money as we can and I have a simple philosophy about what we're doing. Dollars + research = survivors. It's a very simple thing. We need the dollars so that we can do the research and hopefully, we'll have a cure someday for the people that have brain tumors," Jerry Wolfe said.

Between the "Run with Wolfes" and the "Golf with Wolfes" events, $860,000 have been raised.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the "Run with Wolfes" initiative.