Racers in Vermillion take steps Sunday toward curing breast cancer By: David Lias
Plain Talk Pat Meyer of Brookings couldnâ�?�?t hold back the tears as she and other members of her team crossed the finish line in the DakotaDome Sunday of her first ever 5K race. She collapsed into her husband Davidâ�?�?s arms, not from exhaustion, but from being overwhelmed with the emotions that rained down all at once. All that Pat, who ran with her husband and her sister, Cindy Johnson Brown of Vermillion, could think about as she neared the end of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Sunday morning, was her mother, who lost her battle with breast cancer in 1976. â�?�?Weâ�?�?re all running in memory of our mother today,â�? Pat said. â�?�?It is so exciting that we are all learning and fighting, and participating in an event like this, which is all about breast cancer awareness and early detection. Weâ�?�?re the lucky ones; to be able to celebrate a day like this.â�? There were other factors that made the inaugural Susan G. Komen race in Vermillion poignant for Pat. â�?�?I just turned 55 this week, and my mom lost her battle to breast cancer at 56,â�? she said. â�?�?My other siblings were younger when that happened â�?¦ and it also is my first childâ�?�?s 29th birthday. I gave birth to a baby 29 years ago today, and I thought if I could have a baby this day, I should be able to run three miles. â�?�?Weâ�?�?re celebrating lots of great things today, and Vermillion has really put out the welcome mat for us,â�? Pat said. â�?�?This has been very exciting.â�? Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen for the Cure is the worldâ�?�?s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure, approximately $1 billion has been invested to fulfill Brinkerâ�?�?s promise to her sister. The race has the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a 501(c) (3) Public Charity as determined by the Internal Revenue Code, operating under the Charter of the organization, headquartered in Dallas, TX. Since its inception in 1982 the Komen Foundation and its Affiliate network have raised $750 million for breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment. Colette Abbott, race chair, applauded loudly as each walker and runner entered the DakotaDome for the last leg of the race. The events of that morning, she later admitted, seemed almost dreamlike. The race had surpassed, in nearly every way, the earliest expectations of the committee that began planning the event months ago. â�?�?Iâ�?�?m sort of numb, but Iâ�?�?m also overwhelmed by all of the support both from the participants and by the city of Vermillion,â�? she said. â�?�?The city did amazing things for us, the police department did amazing things.â�? She praised the athletic department of The University of South Dakota, which allowed the DakotaDome to be transformed into headquarters for the race. â�?�?Facilities management was wonderful,â�? Colette said. â�?�?I have absolutely nothing to complain about.â�? Mother Nature participated, too. Conditions were cool and calm Sunday morning, perfect for walkers and runners. Participants in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure could participate in either a one mile fun run/walk, which began at 9:10 a.m., or a 5K run/walk, which started at 9:30 a.m. â�?�?Today has just been so amazing,â�? Colette said. â�?�?Just think of the money weâ�?�?ve raised for this fight. Seventy-five percent of the money raised here today will go toward fight breast cancer in South Dakota.â�? She began her work as race chair 18 months ago. â�?�?On the application, I had to put down how many participants I thought there would be, and I wrote in 500,â�? Colette said. â�?�?I called the national office, and told them my estimate, and they replied that weâ�?�?d have the smallest race.â�? Everyone involved with South Dakotaâ�?�?s first Susan G. Komen race helped prove Colette wrong. The DakotaDome floor was crowded with participants that visited booths set up by the raceâ�?�?s sponsors. The official number of people who walked or ran in the races that morning was an astounding 2,028. â�?�?This is the largest inaugural event in South Dakota,â�? Colette said. â�?�?This is the largest running race in South Dakota.â�? The participants included men and women, teenagers, kids, and even infants who were lulled to sleep being pushed for three miles in their strollers. Colette isnâ�?�?t surprised at the wide cross section of runners and walkers Sunday. â�?�?Itâ�?�?s because there are so many people affected by breast cancer,â�? she said. â�?�?There are so many people who say â�?�?my mom died of breast cancer,â�?�? or â�?�?my sister died of breast cancer.â�?�? All 18 months that weâ�?�?ve been planning this, weâ�?�?ve heard these same stories time and again. Weâ�?�?ve just got to find a cure, and these are the kinds of things that are going to do it.â�? Judy Pickett traveled from Sacramento, CA to participate in the race. She is driven by her passion for running and her goal to do whatever she can to eliminate breast cancer. Pickett knows firsthand what women must go through after being diagnosed with this disease. In February 1997, at the age of 33 and after giving birth to her third child, she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. Her treatment included a mastectomy, eight months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation. Part of her mental rehabilitation included running, an outlet that spurred a personal crusade. In 1998, Pickett ran in her very first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Sacramento. She then vowed to run in 100 different races benefiting breast cancer awareness and research throughout the country. Her cancer has returned twice â�?�? in 1999 and 2001. Each time, she has battled back with surgery, chemotherapy, and running. â�?�?My goal now is to run in all 50 states, and this is my 41st state,â�? Pickett said. â�?�? Thatâ�?�?s why Iâ�?�?m here, for the first Race for the Cure in South Dakota.â�? Her participation in the races also allows her to act as crusader. â�?�?A big part of my message is to let young women know they are at risk for breast cancer,â�? Pickett said, â�?�?and they must do the monthly self-exams and get their mammograms, especially if they have a family history of breast cancer.â�? Pickett also spreads words of hope. â�?�?Iâ�?�?ve been through this three times, and Iâ�?�?m still running and Iâ�?�?m still healthy and active,â�? she said. â�?�?I want to let people know they can get through it.â�? Pickett has been free of cancer for over six years. â�?�?My prognosis is very good,â�? she said. â�?�?Hopefully, weâ�?�?ve kicked it in the butt and never have to return to it again.â�? Pickett said she receives much more than she gives as she participates in other races and meets other cancer survivors. â�?�?I get so much from them,â�? she said. â�?�?They are such an inspiration, and I know what Iâ�?�?m doing is a good thing and it keeps me going to see women who were diagnosed longer ago than I was who are healthy today.â�? Sundayâ�?�?s race also featured five of the stateâ�?�?s native daughters â�?�? all with outstanding track and cross country histories in several of the stateâ�?�?s high schools. Leading the group was Watertownâ�?�?s Kay (Stormo) Freund, a recent inductee to the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, who now lives with her family in Austin, TX. As one of the stateâ�?�?s early girl athletes she set an all-time state record at 800 meters, then became a University of Iowa star, a four-year Big Ten champion in several events. Two Sioux Falls girls, Julie (Pederson) Lindner, who attended Sioux Falls Oâ�?�?Gorman High School and Kristi Rieger, a Washington High star, were both in Vermillion. Both were mile runners and cross-country stars in college, with Julie helping the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse team to become NCAA national champs. Kristi attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls and was a North Central Conference and a NCAA Division II track champion. The fourth star is Mitchellâ�?�?s all-timer, Jill Theeler who earned state track records in the 100 meter, 200 meter and 400 meter dashes. She is now on The University of South Dakota staff. The fifth star, Jennie Buller, was a forerunner of the many distance-runners at Yankton High School. She was a three-time state 1600 meter champion. South Dakotaâ�?�?s next Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is scheduled for Sept. 27, 2009, in Vermillion. The event may become bigger and better as it gains a foothold in the state, but it was difficult Sunday morning for Colette to even fathom that she could feel better about the raceâ�?�?s outcome. â�?�?We couldnâ�?�?t have dreamt anything better,â�? she said. â�?�?I think we surprised people here, with the South Dakota spirit, and the willingness of everyone to help out.â�?
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