April 20, 2009 in City

Turnout outpaces expectations at breast cancer fundraising race

Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer
Photos by J. BART RAYNIAK photo

More than 350 people from Team Lisa pose for a photo before Sunday’s Race for the Cure in Spokane. The team formed in honor of Lisa Stiles Gyllenhammer, a Shilo Hills Elementary School teacher who died of breast cancer three years ago. “She was a mother, a daughter and a wife … an incredible woman,” friend Susan Schlosser said.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

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A fundraising race for breast cancer research brought more than 7,100 people to downtown Spokane on Sunday morning.

The turnout was the largest in the four-year history of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure here, and it surprised organizers who’d prepared for about 1,000 fewer people.

“It exceeded our expectation by about a mile,” said Stephanie Aden, chairwoman of the breast cancer survivors involved in the race.

About 5,000 participated last year.

“With the economy we have, who would guess that we would have a 40 percent increase?” said Mike Bresson, race chairman. “It was incredible.”

The average amount pledged to race participants was down to about $27 a person, from about $34 last year, but the overall money raised increased to about $400,000 this year thanks to corporate sponsors and the entry fees, Bresson said.

Participants chose between a one-mile and five-kilometer race and paid $25 or $35, depending on when they registered.

Race organizers ran out of the T-shirts given to each person who paid the entry fee. About 1,000 participants will get theirs in the mail in the next few weeks, Bresson said.

Organizers also ran out of race numbers, so about 50 runners and walkers went without them.

“That part’s tough, but on the other side, it’s great we had such tremendous growth,” Bresson said. “People are learning about us.”

Seventy-five percent of the money raised will stay in Eastern Washington, paying for services such as mammograms. A board of directors awards the money through grants.

The rest of the money goes to the national Susan G. Komen Foundation, founded in 1982 by Nancy Goodman Brinker, whose sister Suzy Komen died of breast cancer at 36.

Aden joined hundreds of other cancer survivors in the race.

“Most people get involved with the race because they’ve had a family member who lost their life to breast cancer,” she said. “This is an important cause.”

And with the surge in participation, organizers say their message is being heard.

“We just feel like we’ve finally arrived,” Bresson said.

Meghann M. Cuniff can be reached at (509) 459-5534 or at meghannc@spokesman.com.

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