Photos: Race for the Cure
Kate Sommer stood inside the CenturyLink Center surrounded by 14,000 people in pink and smiled.
The crowd, which included 1,000 breast cancer survivors, gathered in downtown Omaha on Sunday for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, now in its 20th year.
She watched families laugh and hold hands, old friends exchange hugs and take pictures.
She watched sons and daughters write the names of loved ones touched by breast cancer on pink sheets of paper that they pinned to their shirts.
She watched aunts and uncles step outside into the rain, wearing pink wigs and pink scarves and pink feather boas, to walk through downtown Omaha in the name of breast cancer awareness.
Sommer introduced the event to Nebraska in 1994. She expected 200 people but welcomed 1,300 to Cancer Survivors' Park, near 105th and Pacific Streets, instead. Among them were 83 survivors.
The event moved to the Western Heritage Museum in downtown Omaha in 1999 to accommodate more people.
It continued to grow, moving to the Civic Auditorium in 2000.
Sunday marked the event's third year at the CenturyLink Center.
“Each time we moved to a different space, it confirms that the breast cancer movement is alive and well,” said Sommer, who now volunteers. “And Komen is at the forefront of beating this disease.”
Komen for the Cure and its local affiliates educate women about breast cancer risk factors. The organizations also fund screenings, treatments and research. It is estimated that more than 232,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, according to the organization.
Sommer, 56, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. She was 30 years old. It returned in 1992, then again in 2010, when it spread to her bones and liver.
Twenty years ago, Sommer thought Omaha wouldn't need a race by now, that there would be a cure.
“I was probably naive and idealistic,” she said. “(But) we're closer. We need to keep fighting.”
Omaha's event consistently draws more than 10,000 people.
It's a testament to the city's commitment to finding a cure, said Karen Daneu, executive director of Komen's Nebraska affiliate.
“People are here in the rain,” she said, gesturing toward the throngs of walkers and runners on 10th Street. “It's a cause people support no matter the weather.
“The battle with cancer is tough. This is nothing.”
Sarah Strom traveled from Lee's Summit, Mo., to participate in the 5K with family members who live in Nebraska and Iowa.
“It's humbling to know that so many people care and want to find a cure and support those of us who have fought the battle or are currently fighting,” she said of the event.
The 32-year-old was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and has now been cancer-free for one year. She signed up thinking of her children: Hailey, 2, and Logan, 4.
“When I wanted to give up, (Hailey) would come running to me, or my son, and I knew I couldn't,” she said, wiping away tears. “They needed their mom.”
This year's event raised more than $243,000.
The Race for the Cure series is Komen for the Cure's most popular fundraiser. In 1983, 800 people participated in the first-ever Race for the Cure in Dallas. It has since expanded to more than 140 cities.