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UNL student preparing for run across the country to raise money, awareness for cancer
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UNL student preparing for run across the country to raise money, awareness for cancer

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Han Le never thought of herself as much of a runner.

In fact, she described herself as a "lazy child" growing up. But during her senior year of high school, she decided she wanted to try something new and started running.

This summer, she'll be running for a cause, participating in the Ulman Foundation's 4K for Cancer, a more than 4,500-mile run across the country from June 21-Aug. 8 to raise money and awareness for young adults affected by cancer. The Ulman Foundation is a nonprofit that supports young adults affected by cancer, as well as their families.

Le is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying sociology, with minors in human rights and humanitarian affairs, global studies and economics. She came to the United States from Vietnam at the age of 16 to receive a better education. She ended up at a boarding school in Staunton, Virginia, which is where she discovered her love of running.

"I was never encouraged to be athletic when I was little," she said. "I discovered that running helps me physically, but also emotionally. I became a lot more emotionally grounded, self-disciplined and mature because of running."

Running has also given her the opportunity to honor family members who have been affected by cancer. She said she's running for her grandmother, who died from lung cancer, and her mother, who was diagnosed with early-stage cervical cancer last summer.

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Because her grandmother died when she was only 10, Le said she didn't fully grasp what had happened. 

"I didn't really understand the whole gravity of the situation, and I definitely never honored her the right way," she said. "I want to dedicate this to her, because it's finally something that I've done for her and it's not something she does for me."

Le has done more than running to help those affected by cancer. In January, she cut off 10 inches of her hair and donated it to Children with Hair Loss, a nonprofit in Michigan that provides free wigs to children. She plans to make another donation to the nonprofit before this summer's run — and, this time, she'll shave her head entirely and donate almost a foot of hair.

As part of the run, Le is collecting money for the Ulman Foundation and its programs with the goal of raising $4,500. So far, she's raised $1,910, including donations made to her Facebook page. Donations for her campaign can be made at

In support of her run, the Lincoln Running Company has donated a pair of shoes to Le, who runs between 15-20 miles every day in preparation for her cross-country journey. She said she appreciates the company's support for runners like her and its solidarity with the cancer community.

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Although her inspiration for joining the 4K for Cancer were her mother and grandmother, Le said she's doing it for all of those in her life who have been affected by the disease.

She thinks her grandmother would be surprised of her love of running, but also proud.

"I don't think she would have expected me to become an athlete, but I think that's what she would really love for me to become," she said. "That's the best thing about a grandmother. I don't think she ever expected me to do it, but I know she would be really proud."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7241 or


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News intern

Samantha Bernt is a Fremont native and a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in journalism and broadcasting. She joined the Journal Star in 2019 as a reporting intern.

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