Komen race marks milestones


On June 21, St. Louis and the breast cancer community will be celebrating two milestones: the 10th anniversary of the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure ®; and St. Louis being the largest Race for the Cure in the world.

“The way the St. Louis community has gotten behind the race is unbelievable and that’s why we have become the largest race by participants,” Kris Fleming, co-chair of this year’s race, said.


The Race for the Cure is Komen’s signature fundraising event with 75 percent of the money raised going back into the St. Louis community; 25 percent goes to research and is distributed by the organization’s headquarters in Dallas. “We have granted into the St. Louis region over $10 million in the 10 years we’ve been holding the race,” Susie Knopf, president of the St. Louis Affiliate of Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, said. “And this year our goal is 70,000 participants.” Organizers also hope to raise over $2.5 million at this year’s race.

Knopf, a member of Temple Israel, said the area has seen the results of Komen’s work in St. Louis. “There’s a tremendous awareness of breast cancer and how devastating it can be. People realize the legitimacy of it and they know the story of how Komen got started. It all began with two adorable Jewish girls born in Peoria, Ill.”

The story to which Knopf refers is well-known to many people by now. Nancy Goodman Brinker made a promise to her big sister, Susan Goodman Komen, who was dying of breast cancer at the age of 33, to do everything she could to eradicate this disease. In 1982, that promise became the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, now called Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

The race is not just an event to raise funds for research, education, screening and treatment. It’s also an event to raise awareness. This awareness is particularly important for Ashkenazi Jews. “Ashkenazis have a higher incidence of breast cancer,” Knopf, herself a survivor, said. “And the whole key, I believe, is due to Komen and the research dollars raised that with early detection 95% of patients survive.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two genes have been discovered that are breast cancer-related: BRCA-1 and BRCA-2. About one in 800 persons in the general population carries a mutation in BRCA-1 that may lead to an increased risk for breast and/or ovarian cancer. However, in the Ashkenazi population, one in 40 persons carries one of three common mutations. With this hereditary factor, it’s important that women of Ashkenazi descent educate themselves on early detection. That’s where Komen comes in.

“We have funded for years Hadassah’s Check It Out ® program,” Anne Rosenberg, Komen St. Louis affiliate board member, said. The program educates women of all ages about breast health and self-awareness. “We fund programs at the major hospitals such as BJC, Missouri Baptist, and the Siteman Cancer Center.” Some of these programs provide free mammogram screenings, education, and treatment. One program, the Daylight Project at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, provides training, guidance and resources to new-arrival women through linguistically and culturally appropriate dialogue about breast health.

This year’s race will once again be held downtown. The very emotional “Survivor Procession” begins at 7:25 a.m. followed by an aerobic warm-up. The wheelchair race begins at 8:40 a.m. with the 5K runners taking off at 8:45 a.m. People walking the 5K course will start at 9 a.m. and the one mile “fun walk” will begin at 9:15 a.m.

If you are unable to attend the race in person, you can still be a part of the event. “You can participate in Sleep in for the Cure,” Rosenberg, a member of Temple Israel, said. “You register for the race but don’t come down for the festivities. After the race you will receive a race T-shirt and a special pillowcase.”

The St. Louis Jewish community has, in many ways, been a big supporter of the race. For a couple years, B’nai El Congregation hosted the Team Development Committee’s T-shirt packing and pick-up event. This year Temple Israel has volunteered for that job. “It seemed like a nice thing to do and we have the space and the dates available,” said Eli Montague, executive director of Temple Israel.

Other support for Komen is in the form of congregations forming teams to participate in the Race. For example, Jerri Livingston (see story below) has captained Shaare Emeth’s team for many years and the Saul Spielberg Early Childhood Center of United Hebrew has also entered a team for several years. In addition to Knopf and Rosenberg, the affiliate’s board is graced by Dan Bindler.

Rosenberg has been involved with the Race in one form or another since it first came to St. Louis in 1999. “I care about this cause because I have two daughters and nieces. I care about their future,” Rosenberg said.

The deadline to register for the race online, at www.komenstlouis.org, is Friday, June 20. Or, visit one of the area malls listed on the Web site Saturday, June 14, Sunday, June 15, or Wednesday, June 18 to register in person. Call the Komen affiliate office 314-721-2900 for more information.

“What I really get out of the race is that for a couple hours every year everyone gets along whether they are black, white, or Hispanic; straight or gay; Jewish, Muslim or Catholic,” Knopf said. “You see all the women hugging each other, and all the families and friends there to support them.”