Pink Ribbon Run set for Saturday

Last year, the cheerleaders showed support for the Pink Run, and this year’s event is set for Saturday, Oct. 5 in downtown Cedar Falls.

The Beyond Pink Team will be hosting its annual Pink Ribbon Run for breast cancer awareness on this upcoming Saturday, Oct. 5. The race will be run through downtown Cedar Falls starting on 7th and State Street with the runners crossing the finish line at Cedar Falls Public Library.

In 2018, the event had a record-breaking year with 1,003 runners registered for the race. 

Current registration is at 884 for Saturday’s run, and they are on track to break that record once again.

Gabbi DeWitt, one of the events promoters, has been hard at work promoting the run on social media, planning programming for pre and post-race, writing press releases and setting up the volunteers for the event.

With $27,000 in sponsorships, DeWitt said the event wouldn’t be possible without their many sponsors with some of the big names being Oakridge Realtors and GreenState Credit Union. 

“Our sponsors cover our expenses 100 percent so that all race registration fees from participants go right into our Pink Ribbon Fund, which in turn goes directly into the community,” DeWitt said.

The sponsors not only put on the event, but they strive to make the event as accessible to the survivors themselves. “Community Auto Group is our Survivor Sponsor. They provide funding so that all the breast cancer survivors have free registration into the event,” DeWitt said.

As the run goes on for it’s 13th year, DeWitt reflected on the leaps this run has made with time. “In 2006 the Beyond Pink TEAM had a dream of having a fund that could help newly diagnosed women with both the medical and non-medical expenses that come with a breast cancer diagnosis. We only had a tiny bit of money, $2,000. That wasn’t going to go far. Then we found out a committee in Cedar Falls was putting on a Pink Ribbon Run and planned to donate the funds to the Beyond Pink TEAM. In that time, that committee has donated over $370,000 to the Beyond Pink TEAM, and each year Beyond Pink TEAM gives out over $66,000 in grants,” DeWitt said.

Seeing how cancer affects families in their day to day life, DeWitt is more concerned about fixing the here and now. “What we are doing is not going to end breast cancer, but it is important to the person we help with rent, gas, groceries or medical bills,” DeWitt said.

As this race grows each year, so does the support for the ladies in the community fighting this battle. “To breast cancer survivors, we want them to know that their community supports them. The journey they are facing is long, and we want them to know that the Cedar Valley supports them,” DeWitt said.

The Cedar Valley has a huge impact on the message that the Beyond Pink TEAM is trying to spread and community participation is imperative. “To the community we want them to know that their donation is important. Not only are they physically showing up, but they are also financially showing up. A  $35 race registration can help pay a medical copay, or buy a tank of gas to get to Iowa City. It is important for us to help each other,” DeWitt said.

Lisa Wilson, a member of the race’s committee, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2016. Since then the cancer has spread and progressed to Stage 4. She is continuing her battle with cancer as she runs her fourth Pink Ribbon Run this year. 

“The first year a friend and I did it. The second year and each year since I’ve had a team, the Wilson Warriors. The race means so much to me as all the proceeds stay local. The first year I went to pick up my packet and while waiting in line, I started crying. It had only been a couple of months from my diagnosis, and it was very emotional. Strangers started giving me hugs and encouragement. That’s why this race is so special,” Wilson said.

Wilson was in grad school and was without insurance in 2015, so she never had a mammogram. She relocated back to Waterloo in late 2015 to be close to family and meanwhile joined the committee. 

“Moving back to Waterloo, I had family around but didn’t really know a lot of people. The committee was a way to meet some great people, and I’m grateful for that. I work some with sponsorships and really try to build up my team and bring in new people to participate. One of my favorite activities is handing out packets before the race. Especially for the survivors. It gives me hope,” Wilson said.

Wilson said she  is extremely thankful for her Warriors and understands the role they play in her journey. 

“I have three sisters, and they are incredible. They go to appointments with me and are there when I need anything.  My Warriors, these people are so special to me,” Wilson said.

Marina Steffner, a participant in the race for the last eight years, has been cancer free for 14 years. Thankful for her recovery, she’s learned so much about life in her years as a survivor.

“This diagnosis at such a young age was a huge blessing in my life. It was a reminder to fill my life with what makes me happy, make the most of every minute I have been given and love the people in my life with all my heart,” Steffner said. 

Not ever having much time to join a support group, the first Saturday of every October is a celebration for Steffner and her family. 

“We are reminded how thankful we are to be together as a family as so many others were not as fortunate. This one morning each year reminds me of the sisterhood I belong to, and it means everything to me,” Steffner said.

Through her many years of experience at the race, Steffner said it’s hard to not feel the love during the Pink Ribbon Run. 

“So many people dress up in fun outfits and come to support someone they love, and you can feel that throughout the whole morning. The survivors wear a strand of beads for each year they have been cancer free, which is so cool. I have saved all of my beads from each year as a small reminder of how thankful I am every day. You always hope the women wearing a neck full of pink beads will inspire the women at the beginning of their journey,” Steffner said.

The annual Pink Ribbon Run is this Saturday, Oct. 5 at 8 a.m. in the downtown Cedar Falls District.

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