Battling breast cancer, 8,000 turn out for Estero race and raise $1 million

Christine Riley (13 year survivor) and Linda Dicks drove down from chilly Michigan to come to the Race for the Cure. They are enjoying the race and the weather. Provided photo

Christine Riley (13 year survivor) and Linda Dicks drove down from chilly Michigan to come to the Race for the Cure. They are enjoying the race and the weather. Provided photo

— Pink was back in style in a big way during the 2009 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure at Coconut Point mall in Estero on Saturday morning.

Pink shoes, pink socks, pink shorts, pink shirts, pink hats and intricate pink hair ribbons were all in abundance as more than 8,000 runners and walkers navigated the 5-kilometer course and raised nearly $1 million for cancer research.

Decked out entirely in pink from head to toe, breast cancer survivor and Estero resident Beverly Dwenger was holding a pink rose to go along with a 40-year-old picture of herself with her daughter, also a breast cancer survivor.

Dwenger, 73, had a double-mastectomy last June. Her 42-year-old daughter, Jennifer Thurson of Saginaw, Mich., underwent a mastectomy to remove her left breast in December.

“It’s overwhelming,” Dwenger said of the number of people who turned out for Saturday’s race. “It lets you know that you’re not alone, and it really lifts your heart up. This is the first race like this that I’ve ever been to, but I’m never going to miss another one for as long as I live.”

Race committee treasurer Gary Iverson said 380 teams participated in this year’s event, up from 270 last year.

“It was a significantly higher turnout,” Iverson said as scores of high-spirited walkers streamed past, chanting and singing songs. “At last count, we’d raised about $950,000, which is even more than the $800,000 we raised last year.”

The final numbers will be released on March 31 and which charities the money will go to and how much each is getting will be announced in late April. Iverson said 75 percent of the money raised would stay in Lee and Collier counties, with the other 25 percent going to the national headquarters of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

“Some of that money will come back to Florida, too,” he said.

Trisha-Lynn Herman, a professor at Barry University in Miami Shores, served as co-chair of Saturday’s race. Herman said the money raised was especially important this year in light of the country’s struggling economy.

“I’m ready to do cartwheels down the pink carpet,” Herman shouted above the loud music pounding out of massive speakers near the finish line, which was adorned with pink balloons outside of Dillard’s. “I don’t even have the words to express how happy I am.”

Herman said the importance of Saturday’s race was two-pronged.

“No. 1, it’s to raise money to find a cure,” she said. “In addition to that, it also helps us get our message out. If you look around, you’ll see that there are young people and old people here, and they will tell all of their friends about the need to find a cure. There are no lines drawn for age or gender. Everybody knows how important it is to find a cure.”

Herman said her organization is always on the lookout for volunteers.

“We love volunteers,” Herman said with a smile. “Without them, we could never accomplish anything like today’s event. It’s being run strictly by volunteers.”

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To volunteer or donate to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, call (239) 498-0016 or visit

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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