Runners/walkers will participate in fourth annual Race for the Cure Sunday

Walkers begin their 1-mile walk in this scene from last years Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure held in Vermillion. The 2011 race is scheduled to begin at 9:10 a.m. Sunday on Dakota Street near the DakotaDome. (Photo by David Lias)

As its name suggests, the main goal of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is to someday eliminate breast cancer for good.

In the meantime, local people who are deeply invested, in terms of time and effort, in the race take great comfort in one of the organizations major triumphs.

The Susan G. Komen effort is saving South Dakota womens lives.

The starting gun to mark the beginning of the fourth annual Susan G. Komen South Dakota Race for the Cure in Vermillion is scheduled to go off at 9:10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 25 for the 1-mile fun run/walk and at 9:30 that morning for the 5K run/walk. The start line is on Dakota Street, near the DakotaDome.

Runners and walkers will complete the race route by crossing the finish line inside the Dome.

One of the things that I really appreciate from the national Susan G. Komen organization is that they are really pushing the fact that where you live should not dictate whether you live, said Amanda Anderson, executive director at the South Dakota Affiliate of the Komen Race for the Cures Sioux Falls office. I think thats something coming into the race this year thats really important.

In a state that has a lot of rural communities, where access to treatment isnt always easy, its important to us that this race is successful, she said. We are getting our name out and we are continuing to raise money to support people throughout the state. We want to continue to reach more people.

There is still time for people interested in participating in the race to register. It may be done online at www.komensouthdakota.org/race. Online registration will be closing on Thursday, Sept. 22, at midnight. Registrations will also be accepted the day of the race, beginning at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, but there will be an additional $5 fee for those registrations.

Race organizers will be providing an early packet pickup opportunity on Saturday, Sept. 24, from 2 to 4 p.m. in the DakotaDome. Packets will be available to be picked up inside the Dome near the south doors before the morning of the race.

We are part of a strong global network, said Colleen Schurrer, Yankton, development chair of the Susan G. Komen state affiliate, that allows for us to deliver breast health information to people no matter where they live, no matter what their income level is.

It really is about empowering people, and you empower people by educating them and giving them knowledge, whether its about how they need to take care of themselves or their families, or how they can access care in their particular areas, she said.

The recent opening of a Sioux Falls office for the South Dakota affiliate of the Komen organization, manned by Anderson, is also making a positive difference in South Dakota. The office space is made possible by a donation from First Dakota National Bank.

Has what weve done really changed that much since we opened the office? In some ways, not at all, and in other ways, absolutely, because we now have a physical space where we can actually send people, Schurrer said. If you need help, you need to know where to find it. Cyberspace is great, but it doesnt work for everybody.

The mission of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure hasnt changed.

But our excitement level is higher than ever, Schurrer said. We have continued support through all of our national and local sponsors, and the Sanford organization has just announced will begin to execute a huge donation from T. Denny Sanford. The research scientists who are already working at Sanford Medical Center and Research Center in Sioux Falls will see their roles expanded.

Researchers in Sioux Falls are working at not only finding better breast cancer treatment options, but also setting their sights on finding a cure for the disease.

There are research scientists that are actually working under Komen National scientific grants. We have people on the ground in South Dakota who are working to find a cure, which is really what the ultimate goal is, Schurrer said.

Those research scientists were highlighted at our very first race, said Colette Abbott, race chair and member of the Susan G. Komen South Dakota affiliate board of directors. The attention received by Dr. Kristi Egland, a researcher at Sanford in Sioux Falls, gave her the attention that helped the national office decide to present her with a $1 million grant to continue her work.

A second South Dakota researcher and his team is studying the effect that a diabetic cancer patients appear to have a better outcome with their cancer treatment perhaps because of drug they take to treat their diabetes.

That just opens up another avenue for research scientists to start looking at, Schurrer said.

We actually could find a cure right here in South Dakota, Abbott said. That is a real possibility. It is very, very possible.

Seventy-five percent of the money raised at Sundays race will stay in South Dakota to help meet and identify unmet breast health needs in the state. The remaining funds go the Komen national organization to fund research grants that awarded across the country.

Since 2008, the annual Komen races held in Vermillion have consistently raised more money than the previous year. Its a trend organizers expect will continue with the upcoming fourth race on Sunday.

South Dakota has also received more funding from the Komen national organization allocated toward cancer research than has been raised in the state during the past three years.

Of the 25 percent of funding that goes to national, 100 percent of that is dedicated to research scientists to basically find the cures, Schurrer said. In South Dakota, we are very proud of the fact that we fund all of the grants that are filtered back through our grants committee, which are local people who are educated in breast cancer areas.

They look at the grant applications, she said, and thats how our money is distributed throughout the state. For the last five years, even before we had the race, we have contributed money to a program called All Women Count Cancer Network. It provides screening, breast health exams and mammograms for women throughout the state.

Thats why the race is so important, Anderson said. The more money weve been able to raise, the more women and men weve been able to support through the grant program. Weve been able to reach so many people because the race has been so successful.

Vermillion and the university, for these four years, have been a huge contributor in terms of providing space, people who volunteer their time to do needed work there is so much that the university does that people dont even know about, Abbott said.

Without the university, the city of Vermillion and Aramark, we would not be able to execute this kind of event, Schurrer said. It is really those three entities in union that have allowed us to put the best face forward of Komen South Dakota.

We always talk about the impact that we can make in Komen, and I think Vermillion and USD have definitely made an impact, Anderson said.

Susan G. Komen fought breast cancer with her heart, body and soul. Throughout her diagnosis, treatments, and endless days in the hospital, she spent her time thinking of ways to make life better for other women battling breast cancer instead of worrying about her own situation. Moved by Susans compassion for others and commitment to making a difference, Nancy G. Brinker promised her sister that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer.

Though Susan lost her battle with the disease, her legacy lives on through the work of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the organization Nancy started in her honor. Komen for the Cure is the global leader of the breast cancer movement, having invested more than $1 billion since its inception in 1982. Komens promise is to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures. Across the country, that promise is upheld by a network of 122 local affiliate offices. At the heart of each affiliate is a person or group of people who, like Susan, wanted to make a difference.

For more information on the event, visit http://www.komensouthdakota.org/

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