By Ann Marie Shambaugh
In 1993, Ann Davis and her three daughters decided to sign up for a little event to help raise money to fight breast cancer because they were looking for something fun to do.
More than two decades later, the Susan G. Komen Central Indiana Race for the Cure has grown to become one of the largest annual fundraisers in the state, with organizers expecting 15,000 participants at this year’s event, set for April 16 in downtown Indianapolis.
For Davis and her family, fixtures at the event, the cause soon became personal when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. The race hasn’t been the same for her since.
“It’s quite rewarding, and it just warms your heart to see that many people that care,” said Davis, 74, a longtime Carmel resident and former deputy clerk-treasurer for the City of Carmel. “The first time (at the event) after I’d had my surgery, there were maybe 100 (people) that were survivors, and now there’s thousands. It’s like, yep, that money does work.”
Now in its 25th year, the Central Indiana race has led to grants of more than $18 million for local breast health programs, with more than $23 million going toward research at Indiana institutions. Funds raised through the race help pay for screenings, treatment, education and survivor support for local women and men battling breast cancer.
A shocking diagnosis
Davis said she was shocked when she learned she had breast cancer, as no one else in the family had ever been diagnosed with the disease. Doctors found an unexpected invasive tumor during a mastectomy to remove a noninvasive one.
Kelly Meyer, Davis’ daughter and a first grade teacher at Mohawk Trails Elementary, remembers taking her mom to her chemotherapy treatments and the emotional toll it had on both of them.
“It was awful, just watching her lose her hair and not knowing what was happening,” Meyer said, “but she was so strong and stayed so positive.”
Those experiences ignited Meyer’s commitment to the cause, and the Carmel resident’s Race for the Cure team has grown to become one of the largest and top fundraising teams year after year. Faithful Friends topped out at nearly 170 participants in 2001 and raised almost $50,000 in its best fundraising year, 2012.
“I’ve never been one to feel comfortable asking people for donations, but it’s kind of an addiction once you start,” Meyer, 48, said.
This year the team’s goal is $20,000, as some of her top fundraisers from past years have branched off to start their own teams. Faithful Friends has raised more than $290,000 in 22 years.
Above and beyond
Davis, Meyer, and her sisters – Kathy Farrow, 49, Carmel and Molly Hays, 44, Westfield – haven’t missed a Race for the Cure since they began participating 22 years ago. Molly walked one year while pregnant with twins, and Davis completed the event between chemo treatments.
The women refuse to let spring break – or anything else – get in the way of their annual tradition.
“There’s been a few years when numbers are down because of Carmel spring break, so that pretty much wipes out my whole team,” said Meyer, who recruits heavily from her school. “My husband was nice enough to fly home early because we didn’t want to miss the race.”
In recent years, Meyer and Davis have gone above and beyond their regular commitment by clearing their schedules the Thursday and Friday before the race to volunteer, passing out T-shirts and doing other tasks to prepare for the big event. They stay in a hotel downtown the night before the race and celebrate with a team luncheon at Arni’s when it’s done.
Even though volunteering and fundraising are a lot of hard work – and she could have lost her life to a disease that kills women every day – Davis said everything that’s happened in the last 22 years has been worth it.
“I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened to me. I hope it’s made me a better person. I hope it’s made me more involved,” Davis said. “(The Komen organization) is a family, there is no two ways around it. Everybody cares about everybody else.”
THE 25th ANNUAL SUSAN G. KOMEN CENTRAL INDIANA RACE FOR THE CURE
- When: April 16
- Where: Military Park, 601 W. New York St., Indianapolis
- Cost: $25 for breast cancer survivors, $30 for participants, plus $6 for timed entries. Children may register for $12.50.
Race day timeline
- 7 to 8:30 a.m. – Registration
- 7:15 a.m. – Survivors meet at the Survivors’ Tent
- 7:30 to 8:40 a.m. – Pink Parade of Survivors
- 8:40 a.m. – Kids’ Dash and aerobic warm-up/Zumba
- 9 a.m. – Competitive 5K run start
- 9:10 a.m. – Participant 5K run/walk start
- 9:20 a.m. – One-mile family walk start
- More info: Visit www.komencentralindiana.org/race to learn more or register.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer
- Every minute, someone in the world dies of breast cancer
- 13 million breast cancer deaths are predicted around the world in the next 25 years
- 74 percent: Five-year relative survival rate for women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in 1980
- 99 percent: Five-year relative survival rate for women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in 2016
*Source: Susan G. Komen Central Indiana