CEDAR RAPIDS Iowa – Thousands of people will lace up their running shoes this weekend in the name of fighting breast cancer.
Mercy Medical Center sponsors the Especially for You Race Against Breast Cancer to raise money for fighting the disease. It's held each year in October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Thursday morning marked the beginning of one of the biggest preparation days ahead of the race.
"We have over 350 teams picking up their packets, their goody bags, their race shirts," said Race Director Michelle Cole. "So, shortly here this morning we will have this whole parking lot filled with people."
Organizers are planning for between 15,000 and 16,000 people to fill Downtown Cedar Rapids for the event on Sunday, Oct. 7. One big change this year, to accommodate the growing number of people, organizers are moving the start line to the front of the Hall Perrine Cancer Center on 10th Street SE.
"It might be kind of chilly. But we've got a great event planned for our 22nd Annual event on Sunday morning. We're hoping everyone will come out and support us. It's a heartwarming experience, especially just seeing all of the breast cancer survivors," said Race Director Michelle Cole.
Each year when race rolls around, Cindy Young thinks back on the good times with her sister, Sandy. Sandy died in 1991 after she lost her battle with breast cancer. Cindy only has pictures to help her remember her sister's love of life, but she also holds on to memories by helping to organize the Especially for You Race in her sister's memory.
"It's a little bitter sweet but it's very, very rewarding," Young said. "We are so proud of this race. It's just amazing how much it has grown. In 1991 we hoped for 500 people, we had 1,000. This year we're hoping for 16,000. It's just incredible."
Talks of the fundraiser started months before Sandy died when she created a breast cancer support group at Mercy. Sandy decided she wanted to do something to give back to the community and help fight the disease. She, however, passed away before getting the race started. So, her family took over the work to get it started. The first race was held just two months after her death, and 22 years later, it's still going strong.
"She has got to have the biggest smile. She has to be very, very proud," Young said. "No one knew the impact her death would have and it truly has. It has impact many, many lives and I think it has saved lives and we're hoping to continue on the journey with her because she is with us all of the time."
All of the money raised stays in Cedar Rapids and helps people who can't afford medical services to help detect or treat breast cancer.
"Last year we were able to help 628 individuals receive 889 services," Cole said. "Many of those are uninsured or underinsured individuals right here in this community. Patients have a choice of where they would like to have their services provided. We cover things like mammograms, both screenings and diagnostics, as well as ultrasounds and biopsies."
Runners can still register Thursday through Saturday at the Lundy Pavilion, which is located on the 8th Avenue SE side of the Mercy Medical Center campus. People can also register on race day from 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. at the Hall Perrine Cancer Center. The race beings at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, and it includes a 5K Run and Walk or a 1 Mile Family Fun Walk.