Fresno pupil runs for a cause

Tu Van Pham to raise funds for children, to fight ovarian cancer

Houston Chronicle
March 21, 2008, 7:38PM

By Kim Morgan
Chronicle Correspondent

She's a girl on a mission and nothing's going to stop her. Not wind, not rain — and if it were to snow in these parts, that wouldn't stop her, either.

vietnam educationTu Van Pham, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Sienna Crossing Elementary School in Missouri City, will pound the pavement May 3 in the hopes of raising $5,000 at the 11th annual M.D. Anderson Sprint for Life 5K Run/Walk.

"I actually have three goals," said Pham, a Fresno resident. "One is to raise $5,000. The second is to come in under 30 minutes. And the third one is to finish in the top five (age group 10-14). If I don't, I will be really disappointed and cry all the way home."

Pham's joking when she says that — for the most part.

To try and ensure success, she's been training most days of the week, no matter the weather, for the last three months — lifting weights with her 11-year-old brother Alexander Le, jumping rope, sprinting, running cross country and doing 200 push-ups a day.

"I'm not really fast or strong," Pham said. "But I have motivation. I'm doing it for the kids, and for the women with ovarian cancer."

Pham will split her donations between the cancer center and Sunflower Mission, a Stafford-based nonprofit organization that raises funds for school projects or scholarships for children in Vietnam.

Pham was born in Houston, but her mother and stepfather are from Vietnam.

Last year, Pham raised $1,370 at Sprint for Life. That's pretty good considering she entered just a few days before the race.

This year, she's been planning ahead, and with more time to spare, she's set higher goals — including beating last year's time of 34 minutes, 20 seconds.

Her stepfather Son Le believes she can do it. He's been running alongside her during training, encouraging her every step of the way.

"It's been wonderful because it gives me and her a chance to get even closer, even though she's been with me the last eight years," Le said. "We always try to do fun things together. Running is kind of boring, but I told her we've got to do it to help kids on the other side of the world, but at the same time help people in the United States who have ovarian cancer."

Pham wants to help families who have lost loved ones in the Iraq war as well, which is why she intends to participate in the Houston half-marathon next January.

If she could do the entire marathon, she would.

"She was going to do it this year, but participants have to be at least 12 years old," said Pham's mother, Lucy Le. "She can do the half-marathon next year because that's what's available for her age."

Meanwhile, Pham, Alexander, Lucy and Son will be at a Sunflower Mission fundraising event March 29 at Kitty Hollow Park, 9555 Texas 6 S. in Missouri City.

The family picnic and games will begin at 11 a.m.

Pham hopes "lots" of people come out for the event.

She would like to take a moment to thank her Sprint for Life sponsors.

"Thank you to all my sponsors, like my aunt," Pham said, "and some other sponsors at the supermarket."

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Tu begins her workout routine with stretching exercises.

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Tu completes four sets of 10 repetitions of bench press.

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Weight training is an important part of her routine as TuVan Pham prepares for the M.D. Anderson 5K Sprint for Life

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Tu strains as she completes a set of push-ups.

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Tu feels great after her workout and is confident that she will meet her goal of raisning $5,000 by competing in the M.D. Anderson Sprint for Life 5K run.