After she finished high school, Amanda Gossard knew one thing for sure: She wasn’t going to work for the National Park Service.
Her mother and father were Park Service rangers, and she’d spent her life in the parks. She was born at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and grew up in Death Valley and Arizona’s Petrified Forest.
“I wanted to cut my own path in the world,” she said.
Over time, that changed. After her father died in 2004, she moved to San Diego where her mother works at Cabrillo National Monument. A temporary part-time job there altered Gossard’s outlook and, after getting her degree in recreation and tourism management at San Diego State, she became an NPS ranger. The Ocean Beach resident, 30, has worked at Cabrillo for eight years and is the education coordinator.
“I can’t really imagine doing anything else,” she said.
Unfortunately, there’s been another thread binding Gossard to her parents: cancer.
Her father, Glenn, died at 46 of multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. Her mother, Terry Petrovich, was diagnosed a few years later with stage 4 follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
There is no cure for her mother’s disease, but it’s slow moving and can remain dormant for years. Petrovich continues to work as an administrative officer at Cabrillo and hikes and travels. But Gossard wants to do everything she can to help her mother and anyone else with cancer.
“After my dad passed away I felt helpless, like there was nothing I could have done,” she said. “I had a lot of regrets. ... And then when my mom was diagnosed, I got all those feelings again.”
Through a family friend, Gossard discovered she isn’t helpless. With two feet and a strong will, Gossard - who’d never been a runner - has raised thousands of dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through Team in Training, a program that coaches runners, walkers, cyclists, triathletes and hikers to conquer various endurance quests while raising money for blood-cancer research.
That fundraising has directly helped her mom, she said. Money raised by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society helped fund research to develop the drug Rituxan, which her mother has used. That link makes her feel she’s making a difference.
She ran her first race, the Carlsbad Half Marathon, in January 2013 then did the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Alaska and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego in 2014, setting a PR of 3:57:06.
Gossard’s next race for Team in Training is the Yellowstone Half Marathon on June 11, a gorgeous trail run outside the park’s west entrance. Her goal is to raise $2,800. That it’s at a national park makes it feel right, she said.
Terry Petrovich will go, too, to support her daughter. When the race is over, the two rangers will - of course - explore the national park.
“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run that,” she said. “That’s one of the places my dad took me as a kid.”