‘Grandma Dorothy,’ 85, Has Good Cause to Come to GCU

March 05, 2012 / by / 0 Comment

By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau

Purple is her favorite color, but Dorothy Brunker will sport green at Grand Canyon University.

The great-grandmother will join more than 1,000 visitors Saturday for the spring edition of GCU’s Run to Fight Children’s Cancer. Brunker, who many local runners simply recognize as “Grandma Dorothy,” is impossible to miss as she steadily pushes her walker festooned with holiday decorations.

This Saturday, she plans to walk with a festive St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun and shamrocks. For Brunker, being part of a major event such as this weekend’s GCU run allows her to connect with her friends from local running groups. She prefers to stay active and spend time at events that challenge her physically but also raise awareness for important causes.

Dorothy Brunker is always on the lookout for a good event and a worthy cause, and she says she has found one in GCU's Run to Fight Children's Cancer.

Even at 85, with concerns about the effects of Parkinson’s disease, Brunker continues to attend races. She has won awards for her team spirit, and her living-room furniture is nearly covered with race medals.

“I never just sat around,” said Brunker, who began participating years ago after making her peace with God through the frustration of a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

“A lot of people at these races say I’m an inspiration to them,” she said.

If not for racing, Brunker admits she would be sitting in front of her computer rather than exercising. But in addition to races, she enjoys dancing Latin and Salsa. She refers to herself as the “Queen of Cha-Cha.”  

She can complete a full marathon in about seven hours, as she did at a recent run in Ireland to raise money for diabetes research.

Brunker lost her daughter Maureen, 30, more than 20 years ago to a drunken driver in Laguna Beach, Calif. The tragedy prompted her to work as an advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving for more than 15 years. She currently lives in northeast Phoenix with her husband and other relatives. 

Her greatest lesson: You can do anything you put your mind to. She hopes that advice will resonate with the families whose children are struggling with potentially fatal cases of cancer, including many who struggle with the financial pressure of such a serious illness.

Saturday’s cancer run is the second hosted by GCU. Last fall’s inaugural event raised $30,000 for the local non-profit Children’s Cancer Network, which provides emotional and financial support for families of childhood cancer patients.

To enter the Run to Fight Children’s Cancer, which will include 5K and 10K races, go to www.runtofightcancer.com.

Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or Michael.ferraresi@gcu.edu.

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