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More than 450 turn out for third annual breast cancer event

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Posted: Sunday, October 24, 2004 10:00 pm

Saturday morning as the clock neared the hour of 8 a.m., a heavily clouded sky barely revealed a hint of morning light. Intermittent sprinkles seemed to be warning that a downpour was imminent.

Still, in spite of the early hour and the hovering gloomy weather, a river of cars was flowing into the Geweke RV lot on Beckman Road. In fact, the Geweke lot would soon fill up, forcing more cars to line the streets.

No, it wasn't the RV sale of the century; it was a superb turnout in support of the Third Annual Pink October Race for Awareness -- a fun run/walk to raise awareness and funds for the fight against breast cancer.

Three hundred people had pre-registered for the run/walk, said Kelly Higgs, a committee member for the event. However, by the time the event kicked off, more than 450 people had shown up to participate.

"It's a joy to see so many people out here supporting this event," Daryl Geweke said.

Jolene Vessels, chief financial officer of Geweke RV and Auto Group, said she believed Lodi could out-do Yuba City as far as Pink October participation is concerned.

"We started this in Yuba City, and we figured if Yuba City could do it, then Lodi would out-do Yuba City," she said. "And we have. It took just three years to match those numbers. Participation is doubling every year."

One of the significant points fund-raisers proudly made throughout the morning was that all funds raised through the Race for Awareness are used in local programs. While the money is collected and managed by the American Cancer Society, all money raised locally is used for local cancer programs.

"All the funds raised stay here, locally, in Lodi," said Vessels. "They are to be used in the Look Good, Feel Better Program, and for the Road to Recovery Program -- which provides transportation to and from treatment."

While the reasons for participation in the event were as varied as the people attending, it seemed that all participants could agree on supporting the cause to beat cancer.

Walking in honor of her mother-in-law, who was a breast cancer victim, Val Watson prepares to participate in the Race for Awareness event Saturday at Geweke RV in Lodi. (J. Paul Bruton/News-Sentinel)

Claudia Salazar-DeSantiago, an adviser for a the Latinos de Las Americas Club, brought 26 students to participate in the walk.

"We wanted to get them to participate in a good cause with selfless motives," she said. "We wanted them to get involved for someone else and not always feel you have to get something in return for helping."

Other participants were walking in honor of loved ones or friends whose lives had been cut short by cancer or is a breast cancer survivor. Many participants wore the name of a friend or loved one attached to their shirts, sweaters and jackets.

"I have a neighbor who has been affected and survived breast cancer," said participant Kim Gravenkamp. "That's why I'm here. To support her."

Whether having been affected by cancer, supporting a friend or family member, or getting involved to help bring awareness to the cause, the more than 450 participants ended up raising more than $14,000 toward those goals -- and more money is still coming in.

Kim Seibel leads more than 450 people through warm-up exercises before the run begins Saturday. (J. Paul Bruton/News-Sentinel)

In light of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Race for Awareness event, Stacy Beintema, health programs manager for the American Cancer Society, pointed out why "awareness" is so critical.

"In San Joaquin County, there will be approximately 335 new cases of breast cancer, and 55 deaths this year." she said. "We've made huge strides in breast cancer mortality rates, and an extremely important part of that is through awareness -- early detection is key."

Beintema said that if breast cancer is detected at its earliest stage, survival rate is 95 percent.

"Many people don't know that we're involved and have programs in the local community," said Beintema.

For more information about local programs, contact the American Cancer Society at (800) ACS-2345 or visit the society's Web site at http://www.cancer.org.

Contact reporter J. Paul Bruton at paulb@lodinews.com.

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