Racers show up to raise funds for breast cancer despite weather

Jackie Mantey

Breast cancer survivors, wearing pink shirts, and family and friends showing support walked in the Race for the Cure in Cleveland Saturday morning. Despite the cold and rain, thousands came to participate and watch the event.

Credit: Jason Hall

Breast cancer survivors, wearing pink shirts, and family and friends showing support walked or ran in the Race for the Cure in Cleveland Saturday morning. The 5K run/walk and one mile walk was held downtown.

Credit: Jason Hall

Heavy rain, strong gusts of wind and cold temperatures did not discourage the thousands of people who came to participate in the 12th annual Race for the Cure Saturday in Voinovich Park to celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“It was so cold I thought no one would be here, but when I got here, there was nowhere to park,” said Ellen Alkiewicz, a 25-year-old Lakewood resident and race contestant. “The magnitude of this race is so great. Everyone is so energized.”

Thousands of contestants weathered the storm and walked, ran or skipped past the finish line to help raise money for research to find a cure for breast cancer.

Motivation to run for the cause came in many forms. For Michael Albanesc, it was to remember a loved one.

“My wife’s mother died of breast cancer,” he said. “I think it’s important we help the future.”

Albanesc, of Eastlake, ran with Chagrin Lagoons and Boaters for the Cure, a sponsor for the event and a team with 25 members that ran to raise money.

His teammate, Frances Koons, 54, also of Eastlake, said the team had been participating since the first race, and so far, she hasn’t had anyone close to her die from the disease.

“I run for my family,” Koons said. “I hope none of them have to go through the pain of breast cancer.”

The race was established in 1994 by The Cleveland Komen Affiliate following the first Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Race for the Cure. In 1999, the Cleveland Affiliate merged with the East Ohio Affiliate to become the Komen Northeast Ohio Affiliate, according to their Web site, www.komen.org.

Since the first race, the Komen Northeast Ohio Affiliate has raised approximately $7 million that provided funding and support to northeast Ohio agencies working to wipe out breast cancer as a life-threatening disease.

“It is such a great cause, and 75 percent of the money raised stays in northeast Ohio,” said Alkiewicz, who ran for her company, GE.

The remaining 25 percent helps fund the Komen National Grant Program, according to the Komen Foundation Web site. Registration began in September and late registration started Saturday at 6:30 a.m. as people young and old gathered in front of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and warmed up for the five kilometer run that went from Voinovich Park and around Northcoast Harbor in Cleveland.

Music blasted from a loud speaker and words of encouragement were spoken before the race started at 8 a.m. Erin Wolfe, sophomore criminal justice major, heard those words as she warmed up for the race.

Wolfe traveled to Cleveland with about 20 other Kent State students and faculty. They ran for Team Kent, which was sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center, Wolfe said. Team Kent left campus at 5 a.m. but almost missed the start of the race.

“We got caught up by The Jake at about ten minutes until the start and they told us on the bus if we were running competitively we should get off the bus and run down from there,” Wolfe said. “We had to run down here and luckily we had enough time for warm-ups.”

The race became a family affair for Wolfe who was joined by her father Dale Wolfe from Grafton.

“I wanted to run more races competitively, and when Erin called I thought it would be a good chance to race and meet up with my daughter,” Dale said.

Erin said the whole experience was great for her workout and great for the cause.

“I was really happy to be here,” Erin said. “The cause is so great and it’s such an adrenaline rush. The start of the race was exhilarating.”

After the race, there was an awards ceremony, a children’s dash, a one-mile fun walk, a survivor’s ceremony and a viewing of the sponsor’s tables .

Tents lined Lake Street as vendors gave free samples to the participants. Breakfast food, Yoplait yogurt, Mardi Gras beads, viewings of Gibson guitars and even life-size characters of the Quilted Northern queens from commercials were downtown. There were also petitions floating around to ban smoking in all Ohio restaurants and a tent with dancing clowns and children’s games.

One tent handed out book bags to passers-by. The bags said “Be Your Own Cause” and were provided by Kaiser Permanente, a health organization with firms in Ohio.

The runners earned money for research for a cure for breast cancer by paying the $25 entry fee or by having sponsors who would pay for them to run. Participants could run individually or with a team.

Results for Saturday’s race are still being tallied.

Contact College of Architecture and Environmental Design and School of Art reporter Jackie Mantey at [email protected].