Support for those impacted by breast cancer on display at Especially for You Race in Cedar Rapids
Nearly 15,000 turn out for annual 5k event
CEDAR RAPIDS — DeeAnn Koberle said she had a little bit of leg pain Sunday morning, but more of something else.
“I have a lot of support behind me,” said Koberle, 59, of Stanwood, who was among the nearly 15,000 who walked or ran 5 kilometers from Mercy Medical Center to the New Bohemia neighborhood in Cedar Rapids as part of the 27th annual Especially for You Race Against Breast Cancer.
Koberle’s immediate support was the 26 friends and family members who joined her. Diagnosed with cancer in May, Koberle said despite the leg pain, she felt she could complete the race.
“I’m on my second round of chemo,” she said. “They’ve removed my cancer, and they say they’ve got it all.”
“It’s nice to see how much support there is,” said Koberle’s son-in-law, Tim Kuenzel, 36, of Stanwood. He wore the race’s gray T-shirt, with Koberle’s team name on the back.
The Especially for You Support Group was started in 1991 to fund mammograms and other services for women who otherwise couldn’t afford them. The nonprofit expanded its reach this year to support women facing any type of cancer.
“We decided we needed to treat the whole woman,” said Cindy Young. Her sister Sandy Knight helped found Especially for You after her own cancer diagnosis. Knight died in 1991 at age 39, a few months before the first race.
“They wanted to be able to help disadvantaged women afford a mammogram,” said Young, 66, of Palo. “She had good insurance and she could afford it, but she knew some couldn’t.”
Young said she and Knight’s husband began planning the first event within weeks of Knight’s death.
“With a lot of volunteer planning we got it done,” she said. She estimated about 300 volunteers helped with this year’s event.
Young remembers just how many participants made that first run: 1,078.
“We thought we’d be doing really well with 500,” she said.
Last year’s race raised more than $481,000 through registration fees, according to Mercy spokeswoman Karen Vander Sanden. This year’s total was $389,000.
“It stays right here, locally,” added Young.
“There’s a lot of us,” said Sandy Likes. “It feels good that there’s so many survivors, and we’re here to talk about it.”
Likes, 61, of Cedar Rapids, and other survivors donned bright pink scarves for a group photo before the race. She’s been a participant since her own diagnosis in 2011.
“I should’ve been coming before,” she said. “It has to make a lot of difference.”
“It just shows there’s a great deal of support that breast cancer survivors have in our community,” said Tina Detterman, 52, of Toddville, a nine-year survivor.
“It does just open your eyes a little wider,” said Detterman’s cousin Sandy May, who had surgery to remove cancer in May. She said she’s still working through how the experience changed her life.
“I’m still a little bit in-between,” said May, 68, of Muscatine. “I know I’m different, but I don’t feel any different.”
Young said the event “really took off” after organizers began accepting team registrations about 10 years ago. Friends, family, and businesses organize groups to run and walk the route together.
“That’s important,” said Jan Griffith, 74, of Cedar Rapids, as her partner joined the group photo. “They’re walking for family members and loved ones.”
There were 457 teams in Sunday’s event, according to Young.
“It’s pretty overwhelming,” she said. “I don’t think Sandy had any idea, and I know I didn’t, of what it has become.”
The event itself is a form of support, said Detterman. She appreciates just being around other survivors and their families.
“It’s just amazing, how many people you know that you didn’t know before,” she said.
“It’s great, that you know you’re not alone,” agreed May. “It’s the fact that we’re here.”
Likes said the event fits her personal philosophy post-cancer.
“You just have to kind of take each day as it comes, and love everybody a bit more,” she said. “And hope they find a cure.”