New Smoke-Free Ads Feature Twist to ‘Kokomo Story’

By: Tobacco Education & Prevention Coalition for Porter County Last Updated: January 13, 2010

Seven years after first sharing her story, Lorene Sandifur is again appearing in a touching series of statewide radio and television ads encouraging Hoosiers to quit smoking.

In the winter of 2002, Sandifur told of the story involving her husband Gary, who died from cancer in 2002 at the age of 51 as a result of smoking.

Gary challenged Lorene, an avid runner, to qualify for the Boston Marathon before he died. She began training for that purpose the day after he died. A dream now fulfilled, Lorene recently qualified to run the 2010 Boston Marathon with her qualifying time at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

"I had been running competitively for about 30 years and always had a dream to qualify for Boston,” said Sandifur. “Gary challenged me to realize that dream before he died. He wanted me to have a goal and a challenge to help me look to the future. Running Boston was so much more than the qualifying time...it was triumph over tragedy. In the end, the Lord's love, grace and mercy led both of us to the finish line."

The ads began running Dec. 14 and will continue into mid-January. In the spots, Sandifur recalls her story of how Gary had pledged to her that he would stop smoking when he turned 50. On the day before his 50th birthday, he received word from his doctor that he was suffering from terminal cancer caused by smoking.

But, before he passed away, Gary encouraged those around him to avoid what had happened to him. Gary was especially concerned about young people who start smoking before they realize the lifetime consequences.

In his honor, the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation (ITPC) agency has since established the Gary Sandifur Award, which is awarded to Indiana school corporations who adopt a tobacco-free campus policy.

For her part, Sandifur encourages all people to enjoy a healthier, smoke-free life and if you do smoke to seek help from the free Indiana Tobacco Quitline – 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Any Hoosier 18 years or older can call the Quitline and talk to a trained ‘quit coach’, who will provide tips and counseling on treating their addiction. The Quitline is available seven days a week, 365 days a year from 7 a.m. until 3 a.m.

“Lorene is, and continues to be, an inspirational voice for anyone who might be struggling to break their addiction, or to loved ones who are encouraging someone in their family to quit smoking,” said ITPC Executive Director Karla Sneegas. “I hope her message will be heard by the million plus smokers in Indiana and taken as encouragement to take that giant step and commit to quitting today.”

Sneegas said help is also available by visiting a new Web site at www.QuitNowIndiana.com that has been established as part of the new ad campaign.