If the idea of going from the couch to participating in a triathlon in a matter of months sounds crazy, then you need to meet Team Endure.

This local group brings together people with different fitness levels—beginners to seasoned athletes—to train for endurance events. But they don’t just take on this challenge for their own benefit. They do it to lend a hand and raise awareness for those undergoing cancer treatment in Lane County.

Team Endure trains year-round, participating in events like century bike rides, triathlons and half marathons, but their main focus is participating in the Olympic Distance or Half Ironman triathlons at the Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival each June in Sunriver, Oregon.

Competing in a Half Ironman has been a personal goal for Jerry Whitmore, who lost his father to cancer three years ago.

“Watching him go through the struggle and being able to give back in some way—it’s been very important. It’s been a very good thing for me,” Jerry says.

Giving back is a key component to Team Endure. In addition to training, each member of the team raises money for Oregon Cancer Foundation (OCF). Most team members have a personal connection to cancer—a family member, friend or co-worker who’s had the disease—and they understand that people diagnosed with cancer often find themselves in a financially tough place.

“Patients often have to make really hard life choices, like whether to buy groceries or how to pay the rent,” says OCF’s executive director Amy Johnston. “And those are situations where we can step in and we can provide them with funding that will help them, to pay their rent, to pay their utility bill or to pay for their groceries.”

That’s what motivated Dr. Charles Anderson to join Team Endure. A gynecologic oncologist at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and a member of the Oregon Cancer Foundation’s board of directors, he sees the team’s money at work.

“It’s really great when I actually have a patient of my own who has received assistance from this fundraising. When I think about this team and how that translates into actual patient care, it’s pretty awesome,” says Dr. Anderson.

Training for a triathlon is strenuous, even grueling at times, but it’s symbolic of what patients might experience during cancer treatment. And it’s something this team thinks about with each stroke of the water, each bike ride and every run.

“In the end, it becomes really emotional, because everyone’s worked really hard,” says Team Endure organizer and trainer Mike Carbaugh. “They haven’t just worked hard at their training, they’ve worked hard on their fundraising. When we get the numbers together, we finally see how much they’ve accomplished and we know the fundraising is staying local and helping families.”

Since 2014, Team Endure has raised more than $50,000 for Oregon Cancer Foundation. For more information on Team Endure, click here.