Running for Erica
On March 21, an overflow crowd at Woodfords Church in Portland said goodbye to Erica Miller, who, at the age of 28, lost her valiant fight with leukemia earlier in the month.
On June 14, Katie Pasini Miller, Erica's sister-in-law, will do her part to keep Erica's memory alive by running with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Team in Training, competing in a half-marathon in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Katie is doing more than just running a race, she's also raising funds to combat leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma. At press time, she was just $65 short of her $2,500 goal.
Gloria Miller, Erica's mother and the longtime athletic secretary at Deering High School, said that she and her family are overwhelmed by Katie's efforts.
"Katie came into our lives three years ago and has made us very proud that she became part of the family," Gloria Miller said. "She felt she wanted to do something."
Katie Miller grew up in New Jersey playing basketball, softball and swimming. She went to the University of New Hampshire, coincidentally the alma mater of Erica Miller. While the two (Class of 2003) weren't acquainted at UNH, they became close after Katie began dating and later married Erica's older brother, Matt.
Erica, a Deering High graduate, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005 and eventually underwent seven bone marrow transplants and 37 bone marrow biopsies. Her courage dazzled everyone, even the most seasoned doctors, and inspired Katie to use her recent interest in running to help the cause.
"It started when Erica went into the hospital for her sixth transplant in November," Katie Miller said. "Being the same age as her, it really bothered me what she had to go through. I wanted to do something. Erica was honored. She was touched. She did everything she could to support me. The family's been overwhelming. Their support is very encouraging.
"I've run a couple 5Ks and 10Ks, but never a half-marathon," Miller said. "I'm gradually building up to that distance. My goal is to finish and to not finish last. So far, I've been successful. I hope to reach $2,500. If it gets to be more, that's great."
The spirited and beloved Erica Miller ultimately lost her battle, but lives on in the hearts and minds of so many who loved her.
Katie Miller, with Gloria in attendance, will help see to that in June.
"I really want to run the Boston Marathon, but I knew I wasn't ready this year," Katie Miller said. "Running's become a big part of my life. I think I'll stick with it."
"(Katie's) a sweetheart," Gloria Miller said. "Such a nice girl. It's nice for Erica's legacy."
For more on Katie's efforts, visit pages.teamintraining.org/ma/lkplacid09/kmillerxwd.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com