Several thousands of pink-clothed Central Valley residents attended and participated in Saturday’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure at Fresno State. The annual event is part of an international series of 5k runs/walks that raises awareness and funds for breast cancer.
Three-quarters of the proceeds raised from the event go to funding grants to local hospitals and organizations that provide breast health education and treatment, according to the organization’s website. The other 25 percent of funds support breast cancer research.
Breast cancer is the second-most prevalent form of cancer among women in the United States, according to the site.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Saturday’s crowd was consistent with previous years, said Sharon Johnson, the event’s executive director and a two-time breast cancer survivor.
“In a challenging economy, this is a spectacular crowd,” Johnson said.
“The economy has not been kind, but we’re really excited with how many people have shown up.”
The Race for the Cure featured both men’s and women’s 5k runs. The races started on Maple Avenue right next to the Downing Planetarium and covered Barstow, Cedar and Bullard avenues north of the Fresno State campus.
Jamie Ledezma, 32, finished the race in 23 minutes, 57 seconds – a second short of first place winner Cathy Perez, 63, in the “survivor” bracket.
Ledezma, who was diagnosed with breast cancer 14 weeks pregnant at age 27, has competed under the survivor bracket the past six races.
“There’s something magical about crossing the finish line to this race when everyone out here is in the same fight against cancer as you are,” Ledezma said.
“I’ve always loved running. My mantra, even on the days when I don’t want to get out to run, is I’m outrunning cancer every single day.”
Ledezma, a Fresno State alumna, was one of more than 450 Central Valley breast cancer survivors honored before a supportive crowd.
“To see all of these people here is a huge testament to our community and the number of people who really want to create a world without cancer,” Ledezma said. “It’s powerful to know that my neighbors and friends and community are here to support my sisters.”
Victoria Rodriguez, another Fresno State alumna, had participated in the last three Races for the Cure events held on campus as supporter of the fight against breast cancer.
This year’s race, however, held more significance for her than the previous ones.
“My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last year,” Rodriguez said. “She just recently found out in May that she didn’t have breast cancer anymore. … Her going through the chemo was a whole life-changing event for the entire family. It was hard.”
The Race for the Cure’s high attendance and participation reflected the Valley’s support for a unified cause, said Congressman Jim Costa, who attended the event.
“Each year our community does a tremendous job in demonstrating the support for the loved ones and neighbors who have had to deal with this terrible disease,” Costa said.
“It’s one of the wonderful things about living in our Valley whether you’re in Madera or in Hanford or throughout the Valley. When we have important causes, we come together.
“We see more people participating – families that are that are racing as a team. And it’s inspiring. And it’s motivating. And it reminds us that we should always be there for one another.”