40,000 running as one in Race for the Cure

LITTLE ROCK — In the moments just after sunrise Saturday morning, waves of people started making their way along the normally empty streets of downtown Little Rock toward the corner of Broadway and Second.

It was here that an estimated 40,000 gathered before 8 a.m. at the 2012 Susan G. Komen Arkansas Race for the Cure starting line. This year’s theme was “Run as One,” and the event seemed more of a celebration than a serious fundraiser.

Kristi Moody, 2012 Race for the Cure chair, earned her position the hard way — she’s a nine-year breast cancer survivor. Moody, now of Little Rock, grew up in Warren and was diagnosed with cancer at only 33.

“Our numbers (of participants) are slightly down from last year but we’re just so excited with the support we have,” she said the Friday afternoon before race day.

Still, she said, “Nationally, we rank in the top five races for attendance.”

Last year, an estimated 45,000 people participated in the Little Rock race, including survivors, supporters, team members and more than 2,800 Three Miles of Men lining the 5K course, and the Arkansas office raised more than $2 million.

The stated goal of the organization is to fight breast cancer, and “75 percent of the money we raise stays in Arkansas,” Moody said.

That money is spent in 63 Arkansas counties, including those in Southeast Arkansas, for program funding, education, screenings and treatment.

“We pay for a lot of mammograms,” she said.

The remaining 25 percent goes to the national office to fund breast cancer research.

Moody, who has participated in at least five races, said, “This is one of the most unique and inspirational events I have ever participated in.”

The Race for the Cure events started days before the actual race and extended far beyond Little Rock to Pine Bluff.

Belair Middle School staff and students wanted to bring some of the Race for the Cure inspiration to Doris Williams, a breast cancer survivor and faculty member.

They released balloons in her honor on Monday, Oct. 8.

“I found strength through my belief in God, the support of my family, my principal and friends,” Williams said. “I am a stronger and better person…”

At Pine Bluff High School, teachers, staff and students sold pink zebra T-shirts, designed by senior Ashley Adams, and raised $300 for the Race for the Cure.

Teacher Cathy Bradley Clark, who oversaw the project, said “the students were very excited to be a part of such a worthy cause…This was the first time we had attempted such an activity and it was a huge success.”

While the folks at the Gardens at Whispering Knoll in Pine Bluff held a mini Race for the Cure Friday, Southeast Arkansas College (SEARK College) plans to spend a month raising awareness of breast cancer.

Sherri Roberts, team coordinator, said pink lights were placed around the campus and areas on campus are dedicated to breast cancer education.

“The college has more than 30 participants signed up for the SEARK Team. We are excited about participating in this annual event,” she said.

Although one woman in eight is expected to develop breast cancer, which is believed to be the most common cancer of women no matter their race, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in 1,000 men also will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

“There are so many heartbreaking stories out there, and that’s why we do what we do,” Moody said.