Over 1,000 participants ran and walked through the streets of Munster in honor of cancer survivors and victims at the Community Healthcare System’s 14th annual Unite & Fight Cancer 5k.
The race began in 2004 as a way to raise funds for cancer survivors in the community. Since then, it has raised an average of $100,000 each year, benefitting the Cancer Resource Centre. Through the support of CHS’s sister hospitals, Community Hospital, St. Catherine Hospital, and St. Mary Medical Center, along with other local businesses, they hope to one day eliminate the need for events like this by finding the cure to cancer.
In raising both awareness and funds for cancer research, CHS engaged the community in a cause that has touched the lives of millions of people. Unite and Fight Cancer Chairman and Surgeon with South Shore Surgical Associates Russell Pellar helped found the event for this purpose.
“I had just finished running in the Boston Marathon with another cancer research group, and they raised like $5 million a year. I said, ‘We should be doing a walk or a run or bike or something,’ and the centre said, ‘Go for it.’ We started doing it every year, and my daughter helped me get the kids run started,” Pellar said. “The whole idea is that it’s a community event that lets people think about the impact of cancer within their families and the community.”
To symbolize the passion that each participant had for fighting cancer, cancer survivors were invited to the middle of the Munster High School football field to make a human cancer ribbon. Runners and walkers alike applauded as the survivors raised their ribbon into the air. Several teams walked and ran in memory of a specific person in their lives who once suffered from cancer. Others participated on a company team.
Alison Clark, who walked with the Center for Visual and Performing Arts team, aptly titled “Art of Walking,” brought her family to the event to remember her late father.
“My father passed away from cancer seven years ago,” Clark said. “I think events like this get people out and spread awareness about cancer. Bringing people together makes you care about stuff a lot more. When you see everybody together, you care a lot more.”
Clark also brought her daughter, Clementine, to participate in the Kids Run. Dozens of high-energy kids stormed the field after watching a magic show. When they reached the end-zone, cancer survivors awarded each runner a gold medal.
The sea of blue t-shirts covering Munster High School’s track included several other athletes who have lost a loved one to cancer like Clark. Before beginning the 5K, the participants took a ceremonial lap around the track in honor of those who lost their battle with cancer. Led by the Orak Shrine Pipes and Drums, 1,000 participants walked in solidarity to the sound of bagpipes.
CHS’s Cancer Resource Centre Director Tony Andello was happy to unite survivors, supporters, and community members before the race in honor of those affected by cancer.
“It’s great to bring survivors, caregivers, and their loved ones together for a day of celebration,” Andello said. “This event helps the resource center raise funds for its patients, so we can provide services at no cost. We want to make sure that this is a community event, and it’s a phenomenal way for patients and survivors to get together.”
For the 14th year in a row, Community Healthcare System unified the community in hopes to fight cancer through fundraising and family-friendly fun at their Unite & Fight Cancer 5k.
For more information about Community Healthcare System, go to www.comhs.org.