WHAT: Palmetto Health Foundation’s 25th annual Walk for Life/Race for Life
WHERE: Finlay Park, 930 Laurel St., downtown Columbia
WHEN: 7 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 9
Saturday morning, just as the sun begins to christen the sky, thousands of walkers and runners clad in pink will converge at Finlay Park for Palmetto Health Foundation’s 25th annual Walk for Life/Race for Life in support of breast cancer.
Ashley Dusenbury, assistant vice president of public relations for the Palmetto Health Foundation, said the traditional 5K walk and certified 5K and 10K races draw between 10,000 to 12,000 people, with last year’s number reaching slightly over 11,000.
The first Walk for Life, founded by former First Lady of Columbia, Beth Coble, in collaboration with Baptist Medical Center staff, was held in 1991, with 200 walkers.
The annual walk/race, today one of the Midlands’ largest, was postponed from Oct. 17 after historic flooding in the Midlands.
“We made the decision to postpone it until Jan. 9, and that opened up new opportunities for people who couldn’t participate back in October,” said Dusenbury.
As to be expected, the number of women who participate outpace the men, but the family friendly fundraiser in the fight against breast cancer doesn’t discourage anyone who’s looking to burn a few calories in the race for a cure.
“We are about 75 percent women, but we have children being pushed in strollers and older adults who come out every year,” Dusenbury said. “It’s always exciting to see the number of people who really, truly understand the meaning of the event.
“For thousands of people to come out and come together for one morning to support one mission – and that’s to beat breast cancer in the Midlands – is astonishing and very humbling.”
Proceeds from this year’s race will be used to help purchase 3D Tomosythesis (DBT) software, a whole breast ultrasound system for Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge and a new mammography system with DBT software for the mobile mammography unit that costs $650,000.
“For all of the participants, whether they gave $5 or raised thousands with their team, they know they’re a part of something so significant in our community,” Dusenbury said.
So far there are 450 teams registered, Dusenbury said, making up about 70 percent of the participants.
“That is the driving force behind the event because there are so many people who participate who we would never be able to reach,” she said. “So if you’re one of those team captains and you recruit friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers to join your team, you’re going to make up a large portion of the participants and drive the revenue that comes in.”
Dusenbury also noted that the later date not only prompted more teams and individuals to register, but gave way to additional fundraisers.
“It’s been wonderful to have such support of the decision we made to move the event because of the flooding,” she said. “Everyone saw it as an opportunity to continue to talk about the importance of early detection and breast self-exams and getting this equipment into place. They understand it and they’re excited about the extra time they’ve been given.”
THE VIBE: If you’ve never experienced this event then you’re in for a real treat. “To us and to many participants who have given us feedback, it feels like we have created a movement in the Midlands,” Dusenbury said. “It’s not just another event. It really is a movement in our community to beat breast cancer. We have seen friendships come out of just the experience they have.”
One of the most powerful visuals with this event is the “sea of pink.” According to Dusenbury, if you look at it from 10,000 feet up it looks like Finlay Park has a pink glow to it. There also will be entertainment throughout the race to keep you motivated as well as a photo booth and merchandise for sale at the park.
THE VERDICT: This team-driven event includes survivors and supporters who know the value of this event and the funds it raises.Last year’s walkers, runners, sponsors and supporters helped raise more than $814,000, including in-kind donations, for Palmetto Health Breast Center at Richland. Over the past 25 years, they have garnered more than $8 million, including in-kind donations, providing significant equipment to the Palmetto Health Breast Center. So embrace your inner princess warrior, strap on your pink armor and take steps against breast cancer in the Midlands.
Walk for Life
COST: $30 for walk, $35 for 5K and 10K races
SCHEDULE: The certified 10K will start at 7:45 a.m., followed by the 5K at 8 a.m. Walkers will start at 8:30 a.m. Register at www.WalkForLifeColumbia.org through 7 a.m. Friday, Jan. 8. Registration includes a pink T-shirt for walkers and a pink performance shirt for runners. Registered breast cancer survivors will receive a complimentary keepsake survivor bandana. The certified 5K and 10K races, administered by Strictly Running, are part of Tour de Columbia.
ROUTES: Walkers will start and finish in Finlay Park. Route maps for both the 5K and 10K are at www.WalkForLifeColumbia.org.
PARKING: Finlay Park is 930 Laurel St. downtown. Metered and street parking will be available, and parking garages surrounding the park will be open.
Palmetto Health Breast Center: www.palmettohealth.org/locations-directions/specialty-centers/breast-center
Palmetto Health Foundation: www.palmettohealthfoundation.org/foundation/home
Teams to watch
The A.C. Flora High team walks in memory of Mary Haddon, a staff member who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2013. The team had raised nearly $5,600 as of earlier this week, already surpassing its fundraising goal. The top online individual fundraiser is Alison Espinoza, who earlier this week already has brought in more than $3,000.
“WE’RE TICKLED PINK”
The team from Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge had nearly 150 participants earlier this week and more than $5,500 raised.
Among the newest standout teams, Marilyn’s Slugggers was created by team captain Carlos Crumpton in memory of his mother, who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2013. So far, they’ve raised more than $1,500.
Team captain Elizabeth Gibbes, also known as the “Pinkador Queen,” is a tremendous advocate and supporter and a “Pinkador” Walk for Life/Race for Life ambassador. Her team was closing in on its $2,500 fundraising goal earlier this week.
ALL IN A NAME
Half the fun of being on a team is coming up with a name. Here are some that caught our eye: Bosom Buddies, Breast Friends, Ctrl + Alt + Del Breast Cancer, Hakuna Ma TaTas, Hot Ta-Taddies, The Rack Pack, Trotting For Ta-Ta’s, Tutus for Tatas, We RUN These Streets.