Dark clouds and strong wind could not stop the participants of the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk/Run on Sunday afternoon.
A total of 107 participants, including children, flocked to the Tsalteshi Trails at Skyview Middle School for the 5K event, which was held on the Kenai Peninsula for the first time. Courtnee VanOrd, a community manager for the American Cancer Society in Anchorage, said the event has been held in Anchorage for the last five years and is continuously branching out.
“We’re really trying to get to the outlying cities just to make sure, because we have breast cancer survivors and patients (there),” VanOrd said.
All proceeds raised by registration fees and sold merchandise will be put toward breast cancer research and programs that benefit patients and survivors both statewide and locally.
Participants also had the chance to win door prizes at the finish line. VanOrd said the 5K raised roughly $3,000.
“With research, it’s more difficult to keep that local, just because breakthrough happens all over. If we’re going to end cancer it’s not necessarily going to be in Alaska that it’s going to end, so we fund researchers across the nation.” VanOrd said. “We do keep a large percentage of that money here locally in patient services.”
Services for cancer patients include free transportation to and from treatment, hotel stays, recovery counseling and more, VanOrd said.
Many participants were locals, but some came from as far as Anchorage to run or walk to support the cause. Kasilof resident Melinda Kay attended the event last year in Anchorage, and said she appreciated having the opportunity to participate locally.
Kay and fellow walker Natalie Kohler, of Kenai, were there to support their friend and two-year survivor of breast cancer, Kenai resident Valerie Pierce.
Events like the 5K are important for raising not only funding for breast cancer research, but also awareness about how prevalent the disease is, Pierce said. The main thing Pierce tells friends is to get themselves checked regularly, as it was an overdue mammogram that caught her cancer early on.
“I had gone way too long, and they just happened to catch it on something else I had gone in for,” Pierce said. “It’s so important.”
“Of the people that we used to work with, Valerie is only one of three that have been affected,” Kay added. “And there’s only about 25 of us total.”
It is also important to remember that breast cancer is not exclusive to women, Kohler said.
“My dad had to go for a mammogram,” Kohler said. “He now has complete sympathy for us.”
Mike Crawford, vice president of the Tsalteshi Trails Association Board, was out before participants arrived setting up pink flags along the trails. He said the 5K marked the 32nd event to be held at the trails so far this year.