MOUNT VERNON — Saturday is a special day for many Knox County residents who will be participating in this year’s Komen Columbus Race for the Cure. The race includes a 5k run as well as 5k walk, race Expo and survivor palooza, and one-mile family fun walk.
The race is held every year to raise funds for breast cancer research and educational programs, treatment and screening, as well as breast cancer awareness.
“The foundation started over 27 years ago, when Susan G. Komen died of breast cancer and her sister started the foundation in her honor,” said Katie Carter, executive director for Komen Columbus, an affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
As a part of this foundation, a race was also created to raise funds and awareness of breast cancer. “Race for the Cure, is to honor her sister and to start raising money to find a cure one day,” she said.
In 1993, Komen Columbus held its first race in downtown Columbus.
“Locally, we have been an affiliate of Susan G. Komen for about 17 years now. Our first Race for the Cure was about 800 people and we raised $50,000,” said Carter.
And now years later they have over 40,000 people participating in the race and hope to raise over $2 million.
“It’s a wonderful sight to see and it’s a lot of people — survivors, family members, loved ones, co-workers and corporations — supporting the event. We’ve come a long way from just having 800 people,” said Carter.
“One person started the foundation a long time ago ... and 27 years later it is the largest funder of breast cancer research in the world. So all across the country there are different affiliates in different cities and different states, we are in Columbus but we service 30 counties in Ohio and Knox County is one of them,” said Carter.
From fundraising projects like the Komen Columbus Race, the organization is able to give grants to breast cancer programs throughout Ohio.
“We basically raise money through the race and other donations then we grant that money out to other organizations that are nonprofits that actually do education treatment and screening for breast cancer. So whether it is a breast cancer education group or support group, or actually doing free mammogram screenings and then if someone gets diagnosed they are followed up with treatment. Seventy-five percent of our money stays here in our 30-county service area to fund those local programs for people,” said Carter.
The other 25 percent of the money raised goes into a research pool through all the affiliates across the country, then that money is granted out to fund research.
“We are one of the largest funders of research. [All Komen affiliates] pull 25 percent of their money together to fund critical research [nationally] and hopefully we will find a cure one day,” said Carter.
Several employees from the Knox Community Hospital and other community members will be joining in the race this year.
Stacey Beal, director for community relations for KCH, will be attending this year’s event for the fourth time. She learned about the race from a friend, Denise McGough, a fellow exercise partner at the YMCA. McGough was a breast cancer survivor, so was her mother, Stella Spicer. McGough’s two sisters had died from cancer, Pamela Spicer-Kirk from skin cancer and Darla Maria Watkins from breast cancer.
“She asked me to join her team, the Joy Walkers, in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in honor of her sister’s memory. I, without hesitation, said ‘Yes, of course’,” said Beal. “My goal was to run this 5K without stopping. When I started at the YMCA, I could barely run a lap around the track without stopping. Knowing the reason for and the importance of saying yes to my friend, I knew I couldn’t let her down or myself with my goal of running the race without stopping.”
The first time she had participated in the race, she was very tired but also very excited.
“I was running with 25,000 runners. The sea of pink people — it was a sight that I have never seen before,” said Beal. “The gun goes off and off I went running with breast cancer survivors and family and friends who have lost loved ones to this disease.”
“As I was running with my new friends, I am reading their stories on their shirts. When a person registers for this event, they are given pink race memory and in honor ‘bibs’ to wear on their shirts,” said Beal.
As the race continued Beal pushed herself far beyond any of her training. “I did not pace myself and I’m was running out of stream, but I realized that my pain was so small compared to those who have lost loved ones to this horrible disease. [So] I kept running and running and running,” she said.
And when she saw the pink balloon arch, she knew the race was at its end and realized the impact it had on, not just her life, but the lives of those she ran in honor of.
“[I] cried because of the impact that I felt I made to the family, the event and its cause,” said Beal. “Plus, I finished the race without stopping and the months I dedicated to training to join the Joy Walkers. Also, to be surrounded by breast cancer survivors who also finished the race [and to see them] be greeted by their children, husbands, parents and friends [was] the most powerful feeling.”
With Saturday’s race at hand, Beal said she is looking forward to seeing the Joy Walkers race again this year.
“[I’m] excited for Saturday to get here,” she said.
Cathy Rinehart, who also works at KCH as a coordinator for volunteers and students, will be walking Saturday. Rinehart is a breast cancer survivor and this September will be five years since she first had breast cancer. Her mother is also a survivor of breast cancer and is a big part of her motivation to participate each year.
“It’s an awesome experience,” said Rinehart. “It is emotional at times, but very humbling to know that all these people are concerned about a disease you have already had — as well as their loved ones — and that with their participation, hopefully, a cure will be found so that others will not have to endure the hardships associated with the disease.”
Rinehart often walks with her husband, Dana, and other family members.
“It’s truly amazing to see how many people are walking and most of them wear in memory of, or in honor of mother, sister, grandmother, [or] aunt,” she said.
“The Komen organization is big with early detection. ... My mother, Harrietta Clinger, and myself, are here today — healthy — because of early detection. I look forward to the Komen Race, as it feels like home to me with all the other ‘pink ladies.’ I am very blessed to be healthy today,” said Rinehart.