Dig Baton Rouge

Connecting lives: Race for the Cure celebrates 20 years

Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure is celebrating its 20th anniversary this Saturday, March 5, at the LSU Old Front Nine, with registration beginning at 6 a.m. Events include a 1-mile fun run, 5K and 10K races, as well as the annual survivor celebration and Jambalaya Village cook-off .

The Komen Foundation is the world’s largest breast cancer organization and has funded more than $800 million in research and provided more than $1.7 billion in funding to screening, education and treatment programs to millions of people in more than 30 countries worldwide. The city’s local affiliate, Komen Baton Rouge, has contributed $4.6 million in funding for education, screening and treatment programs, as well as funding for breast cancer research since 1996. What’s more is that 75 percent of all funding stays here in Baton Rouge.

Another important milestone for Komen Louisiana Affiliates is receiving statewide sponsorship from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana. This is the organization’s fi rst statewide sponsor and includes the following: Komen Baton Rouge, Susan G. Komen Acadiana, Susan G. Komen Bayou Region, Susan G. Komen New Orleans and Susan G. Komen North Louisiana.

“We are so pleased and appreciative to have Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana as our Inaugural State Wide Sponsor,” said Angela Miller, executive director of Komen Baton Rouge. “Their message of a healthy lifestyle to promote wellness and proactive screenings closely aligns with Komen’s message that wellness efforts and early detection saves lives. Their support will help us carry not only our message but our mission throughout the state.”

One example of someone who’s taken Komen Baton Rouge’s message to heart is Michelle Perk. She was named East Baton Rouge Parish Teacher of the Year in 2015 and was also a Louisiana Teacher of the Year Semi-Finalist in 2016. Perk’s efforts go beyond the classroom. For the past seven years, she and her Race for the Cure team, Kids Fighting Cancer, have participated in Race for the Cure and have also raised more than $30,000 to help in Komen’s efforts to eliminate breast cancer.

“My goal for this team is to find a cure before my kids grow up,” said Perk about her daughter and students. Perk’s mother, Mollee Vicknair, is a breast cancer survivor. She’s been fighting for over 20 years and was the inspiration for Perk’s team.

What started out as a 6th grader’s enthusiastic shout of “Let’s raise 10 grand,” has turned into not only a huge contribution to the Komen cause but also a tremendous community outreach. Each year, Perk’s kids receive sponsorship to attend the race from donors around the world, which has made a huge impact on their lives.

“Last year, 110 kids got sponsored by people around the world and each of the sponsors hand wrote a letter to my kids,” said Perk. “Having people from around the entire world say, ‘we believe in you and you matter to us’ is a huge motivator for my kids.”

Perk went on to say that the children got to see exactly where their sponsorship came from, and that thank you letters were sent out as well.

The three that have started it all are now in their junior and senior years of high school and continue to participate in the race each year. This year’s race is a special one for the team because it will be the fi rst time that Perk’s East Baton Rouge kids will unite with her current students from Dutchtown High School. This aligns perfectly with Komen Baton Rouge’s message, “10 parishes, one fi ght to save lives and end breast cancer.”

“This race and team not only gives my kids a sense of purpose but also gives them people to connect to that may not just be in their neighborhood,” said Perk.

Race for the Cure is also a great place for those who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer to connect with others who are going through a similar situation.

“Race for the Cure is a connecting resource to the community,” said Miller.

The Survivor Celebration, or the “pink second line,” as Miller aff ectionate calls it, is a way for survivors and those currently diagnosed to connect and off er advice and support for one another.

Registration information for Race for the Cure and more information about the organization can be found at komenbatonrouge.org or by calling the main offi  ce at 225-247-2977. Registration is also available the day of the race. The 10K race begins at 8:45 a.m., followed by the 1-mile fun run and the 5K race.

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