Downtown St. Louis was awash in pink Saturday as the 13th annual Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure took over the city. The Race for the Cure series raises awareness and funds for the battle against breast cancer.
With 64,088 registered participants, the St. Louis event is the largest Race for the Cure in the country. This year there were 1,000 teams. Radio station 92.3 WIL’s “Team Breadbird,” organized by radio personality Cornbread, made history with the largest team ever: 7,568 members.
Affton residents took part in many aspects of the event. Some were there with their company, handing out flyers and gifts to attendees. Others took part in the race.
It took 1,000 volunteers to organize this race, including an “I Am The Cure” squad of cheerleaders from Lindbergh High School and other Missouri schools. After a crowd-rousing cheer during pre-race festivities, the Cure Leaders, as they are known, set up along the race route to cheer on participants.
One of the most anticipated, and emotional, parts of the annual race is the survivor procession, when a mass of women and a few men in pink move through the crowd up to the front of the stage. Tears of celebration and tears of loss could be seen amid shouts of accomplishment and battle cries to continue the fight against breast cancer.
After the procession, top-12 American Idol finalist Tim Halperin serenaded the 4,905 breast cancer survivors with his original song “We Fight Back.” Wildwood resident and singer Kim Cowell sang Melissa Ethridge’s anthem of hope about breast cancer “I Run For Life.”
One of those survivors in pink was Brenda Brockmeyer of South County. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2010, had two surgeries and had just completed radiation two weeks before the race.
Another participant, Linda Shugart of Normandy, was also wearing the pink shirt of a breast cancer survivor for the first time. She had completed both chemotherapy and radiation in April.
Government officials and other dignitaries kicked off the race with motivating speeches. Among the speakers were the race’s honorary co-chairs from the St. Louis Blues: Coach Davis Payne and team member Cam Janssen. City of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay addressed the crowd along with Ladue resident Danny Ludeman, president and CEO of Wells Fargo Advisors. Wells Fargo Advisors was the local presenting sponsor of the race for the fourth year.
The Pink Tie Guys, a select group of men who are leaders in the community, were introduced to the crowd. Their spokesman, Randy Weller of Creve Coeur, talked about the impact breast cancer has on everyone. Pink Tie Guys serve as ambassadors for the St. Louis Komen Affiliate throughout the year.
Employees of Gold’s Gym led the crowd in an energetic exercise routine to get everyone warmed up. The first race began at 8:30 a.m. when the wheelchairs took off from 14th and Olive streets, heading west on Olive, south on 20th Street and east on Market Street to the finish line at 14th Street. They were followed by approximately 2,000 5K timed runners and then 5K untimed runners. After 9 a.m., the 5K Walk and 1-mile Fun Walk participants began their walk; they were able to see the runners coming down Market Street while they were just starting their walk up Olive Street.
This year’s race winners were:
- Men's wheelchair: David Grassi of Ballwin, with a time of 13 minutes, 20 seconds.
- Women's wheelchair: Jennifer Kaiser of St. Charles, with a time of 27:10.
- 5K timed male: Patrick Boland of Chesterfield, with a time of 16:23.
- 5K timed female: Meagan Hudson of Crystal City, with a time of 18:21.
- 5K untimed male: Dan Morran of Kirkwood
- 5K untimed female: Vivien Wadeck of Los Angeles, CA
- 5K timed female survivor: Katie Sutton of Kirkwood, with a time of 18:41.
- 5K untimed female survivor: Cynthia Wichelman of St. Louis.
Last year’s race drew close to 72,000 participants. Erica Stelling, director of public relations and marketing for the St. Louis Susan G. Komen Foundation affiliate, attributed the decreased numbers to recent events. “A lot of natural disasters have taken place and, rightfully so, they have had a lot of attention. There’s a lot of need out there and this spring has been pretty devastating,” she said.
By the end of the day, the total amount of money raised from the race was just more than $3 million. That was short of organizers’ goal to raise $3.5 million. Fundraising efforts continue through the month of June; donations can be made online at Susan G. Komen for the Cure St. Louis. Seventy-five percent of the money raised stays in the area for education, support, awareness and treatment. The remaining 25 percent is used for research at the national level, with some of those research dollars coming back to area institutions for projects and studies.