October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and, again this year, TelWare participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure held in Charlotte NC on October 4th, kicking off the month long awareness movement.
Each year, I’m still amazed at the magnitude of this single event. The number of people involved - Komen staff, volunteers, corporate sponsors, individuals - all with a few common goals: celebrating survivors, keeping alive the memory of those who have lost the battle, expressing the importance of annual screenings and early detection and most importantly, doing their part to help find a cure for this devastating disease. This year, there were 13,000 registered participants and an estimated 18,000 people in attendance.
Look at all that PINK!!
Pink = Survivors, Supporters, Finding a Cure!
So what does race day “feel” like?
"Race Village,” as they call it, opens at 6:00am. That means countless volunteers, staff and sponsors arrive well before daylight to complete setup. The competitive race doesn’t begin until around 7:15am and the fun run/walk, around 7:50am, but there’s so much more to this event than just running/walking the 5K.
Despite the lack of sunlight so early on a Saturday morning, it’s hard not to become overwhelmed by atmosphere. As you may imagine, it’s all about the PINK - every skyscraper, every fountain, glowing in pink lights, and nearly early every single person wearing some form of pink - from t-shirts to tutus, hats, socks, hair; you name it, you’ll see it in pink. The love, support, survivors - the atmosphere is definitely electrifying. It’s hard not to cry (at least for me).
Within the “village”, there’s so much going on - corporate sponsors offering free pink swag, food, mammograms, a memory wall for people to leave messages of hope & inspiration, music, dancing, banners, signs, lots of picture taking, lots to take pictures of, and lots of people! It’s like a big street festival, but everyone is there in PINK, for a common goal.
Then there are the teams - teams with personalized t-shirts sharing the message of why they’re there; memorable team names, even more memorable team costumes, from pink camo to tutus to guys in pink dresses with balloon breasts.
And some incredibly memorable individuals - some funny, all inspiring. People wearing the names of loved ones, both in celebration and in memory. Little girls wearing the names of their moms. Women wearing their own names, in celebration of their own survival. Mothers wearing the names of their young daughters, in celebration that one day, their daughters will not have to endure the pain they themselves have experienced.
It's Hard Not To Cry
So many stories among the masses . . . stories of faith and hope and inspiration; all with an unfortunate element of devastation. One especially touching sight this year is an older couple riding through the streets in a bicycle-drawn cart. The lady is holding a sign that said “Surgery 9/30/14; On the go again”. Her strength and tenacity is overwhelming. She’s definitely a fighter and an inspiration. Then there is the couple, she a survivor, walking the 5K, hand in hand, both sporting a dyed pink ribbon shaved in the backs of the their heads. Unusual, yet defiant in their unity and celebration of her survival.
And don’t think this pink rave is just for women. Among us are men with stories of their wives and mothers. One guy we meet this year, tells us of how he started with Race for the Cure four years ago, in celebration of his mom. At the time, he weighed nearly 400 pounds. On this race day 2014, he’s down about half his old weight, dressed in a pink sports bra and pink tutu, proudly strutting his stuff down the streets of Charlotte with us, though sadly, in memory of his mom this time. But his strength and encouragement and outrageous spirit, no doubt, has his mom looking down on him with pride. He is certainly an inspiration to those of us who encountered him this day.
And so it goes, 5 kilometers of walking the streets, surrounded by pink and people, all with their own stories of how and why they’re here. Encouraged by cheerleaders along the route, shop windows highlighting names and sentiments from those touched by this experience. And at the end of the 5K, you cross the finish line. The names of survivors announced loud and proud as they cross the finish line. But the party doesn’t stop there!
The end of the race is the start of the survivor parade. Survivors, dressed in survivor pink t-shirts, carry flags indicating the number of years survived- 1, 5, 10, 20, 40, more. At the end of the parade, staff, survivors and family, share stories with the crowd of their personal journeys and struggles and triumphs. And at that moment, you’re glad you are there, to be a part of something so incredibly huge and meaningful. You’re enlightened and inspired and if you’re like most, you can’t wait to do it again.
For the 2014 Komen Charlotte Race for the Cure, Team TelWare really showed their “color”. We held (2) public breast cancer awareness rallies to help raise awareness and funds for our team. We wrapped a car in a super PINK design as a constant reminder that until there is a cure, this disease will continue to affect those we love and as we pass the midway point of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Team TelWare has proudly raised nearly $5000. Our efforts this year, along with the other hundreds of teams and thousands of individuals, raised $1.4 MILLION. 75% of these funds will be dispersed among the 13 surrounding counties and 25% goes to national research programs. This money helps fund breast health education, screenings, diagnostics and treatment support services in the 13-county service area.
So, if you’re inspired by this story or you want to celebrate or memorialize the life of someone you know who has been touched by breast cancer, through the end of October, you can still join Team TelWare and the Susan G. Komen Charlotte Affiliate to help with the battle, by donating at charlotte.info/komen.org/goto/teamtelware. And until there is a cure, we’ll see you on the first Saturday in October every year to show PINK IS MORE THAN JUST A COLOR.