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  • LEZLIE STERLING / lsterling@sacbee.com

    Breast cancer survivor Kristy Clark of Citrus Heights, in dark-pink T-shirt, celebrates as she crosses the finish line at Sacramento's Race for the Cure flanked by her daughter, Teresa Middleton, left, her best friend, Jennifer Baker, and Baker's daughter Holly Baker, far right.

  • LEZLIE STERLING / lsterling@sacbee.com

    Robin Jeffries of Placerville, diagnosed with breast cancer in August, gets a survivor's medal Saturday at the finish line. Seventy-five percent of the money raised reportedly goes to breast cancer prevention in nearby counties.

  • LEZLIE STERLING / lsterling@sacbee.com

    Timed runners in Sacramento's Race for the Cure set off on the 5K Cal Expo course Saturday. The field was smaller than last year's but as enthusiastic as ever.

  • LEZLIE STERLING / lsterling@sacbee.com

    Felicia Parker, right, a Vallejo respite worker, with her daughter Jeainen Lyons, before the start of Sacramento's race, holds a sign honoring her sister, Sheila Super, who died of breast cancer four years ago. Parker said she walks in memory of her sister. "I come every year," Parker said. I do it for her and I do it for anyone else that needs it. So … this race means a lot to me."

Thousands join Sacramento's Race for the Cure -- attendance down after furor

Published: Sunday, May. 13, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 13, 2012 - 8:57 am

Roughly 18,000 people attended Saturday's Komen Race for the Cure at Cal Expo, the first since the national organization's ill-fated January decision to stop giving funds to Planned Parenthood – a move it later rescinded.

That's a marked decline from the estimated 25,000 that attended the event last year, when 18,899 participated as runners or walkers in the Sacramento area's Race for the Cure.

The number of participants in Saturday's race in Sacramento was still being tallied. However, on the eve of the race only 14,000 had registered to race or walk, said Paula Birdsong, executive director with the Sacramento chapter of Race for the Cure.

A week ago things were looking grim, with only 8,031 registered. Birdsong said late registration was brisk.

"I'm grateful that people are seeing that, in order to keep these services alive, they have to come out," Birdsong said. "We don't want to punish those who need us the most."

In a recent Bee story, Melen Vue, mission manager for the region's Komen affiliate, said that 75 percent of money raised goes toward breast cancer prevention in 19 area counties.

Some Sacramento race officials were among those who objected when the national organization cut funding to Planned Parenthood.

At Saturday's race, the trademark pink hats of breast cancer survivors and the pink placards, worn on participants' backs and emblazoned with the names of loved ones hit by the disease, were telltale sights.

In the 5K race, Christian Morinico was the top finisher, with a time of 16:12.

The ill will that the national Komen organization generated with its controversial Planned Parenthood move was still fresh in the minds of some race and walk participants.

But it was not strong enough to keep them from attending.

"Look, Susan B. Komen paid the price – like hugely. It was one of the biggest PR disasters around," said cancer survivor Nancy Sheehan. "But it's done. It's over with. People should be out here for breast cancer survivors."

Sheehan, who tugged on a survivor's pink hat, did not come alone. For the race, Sheehan was joined by 22 participants, all from the law firm Porter Scott.

"I'm past the five-year mark as a survivor – which is the big hump," said Sheehan. "I'm still alive."

She has run the race every year since she received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2006. That year she ran it while on chemotherapy. In her mind there is no therapy better than seeing another survivor in a pink hat at the race.

"The best thing, as a breast cancer survivor, is coming and seeing the pink hats and realizing that 'oh my god, all of these people are still alive,' " Sheehan said. "Particularly when you see women out here who have survived 40 or 50 years – and especially when you think how bad the treatment was back then."

Some participants came from far afield, such as Felicia Parker, a respite worker from Vallejo. As she waited for the race to start, Parker carried a piece of art board on a stick with a photo of her sister glued to it.

"I walk in memory of my sister, who passed away four years ago from breast cancer," she said. "I come every year. I do it for her and I do it for anyone else that needs it. So … this race means a lot to me."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Edward Ortiz



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