Μore than 130 runners and walkers turned out for the fourth annual Pink Out the Park 5K at Bayside Park on Saturday, Oct. 1.
The run was hosted by Team Colchester CANsur-vive and benefited Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. In the first three years of the event, the team has raised over $30,000 for the charity.
The event also featured door prizes, a raffle and a survivor’s ceremony during which 15 breast cancer survivors were honored. The event’s organizer, Jim Neary, has been at the helm since the race began in 2013, but credits the idea of hosting a survivor’s charity event to his wife, Cathy.
That year, after nearly a decade of remission and two mastectomies, Cathy discovered she faced Stage 4 “triple negative” breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease.
A longtime employee of Colchester Parks and Recreation, Cathy wanted to involve the community in supporting survivors and their families. Over 200 runners registered for the inaugural race. But later that year, Cathy lost her battle against the disease. The following year, Team Colchester CANsur-vive raised over $15,000 in her memory.
Since then, Neary has continued to organize Pink Out the Park to raise awareness and support for breast cancer. Each of the survivors honored during this year’s race were given a pink ribbon adorned with a sunflower.
“Sunflowers were Cathy’s favorite flower,” Neary said. “We used to tell each other that even in the darkest days, we needed to be like a sunflower and turn towards the light.”
Participants in Saturday’s race included survivors, those currently battling the disease and their friends and families. One group wore blue shirts to honor their father who recently died of stomach cancer.
Lori Berthiaume said she was one of the lucky ones.
“I got the call on Jan. 19, 2015,” she said. “Within a week, I had my first surgery and I’ve been cancer-free for over a year.”
Berthiaume stressed the importance of early detection and urged patients to not put off annual exams.
“I had no idea I had cancer,” she said.
Karen Newman, a mother of three currently fighting her second bout with breast cancer, spoke to the runners before the race.
An avid triathlete, Newman earned a spot to compete at the World Triathlon Grand Final in Cozumel. Then, on Mother’s Day, she received a call from her doctor confirming her cancer had returned and spread to her spine and pelvis. She made it her goal to represent Team USA at the race in September.
Last month, still using a bedpan, she carried the flag for Team USA and placed fourth in her age group for the aquathlon.
“Anything is possible,” she told the crowd. “Dream your biggest dreams.”
Pink Out the Park relies almost entirely on the support from local residents, businesses and town government to provide resources, donations and volunteer participation.
The team is looking forward to an even bigger event next year to mark the event’s five-year milestone.
Robin Parry, team captain and a six-year survivor, said organizers are grateful for the continued support from the community. People keep showing up, spreading the word, running the races and raising money for research.
“Pink is the color of awareness,” Neary said, “but we want to turn that awareness into action.”