• 63°

Gift of Life Kicks Off Breast Cancer Awareness Month with 5th Annual Julie Richardson Procter 5K Ribbon Run Color Rush

Special to The Leader

More than 5,000 Southeast Texans took the Gift of Life’s “pink challenge” by immersing themselves in the color and spirit of survivorship at the 5th Annual Julie Richardson Procter 5K Ribbon Run Color Rush on Thursday.

The 5K, supported generously by title sponsors H-E-B and Jason’s Deli, featured color blast stations, lively music, a health-related Wellness Village, a Kiddie Blast Color Zone, great prizes and entertainment!

“This means the world to me,” said Ribbon Run Co-Chair Sherry Paschal. “As a breast cancer survivor, I know what this display of love and support means to others in the fight. This run gives us hope to keep persevering and raises much-needed funding for an organization that is saving lives in Southeast Texas. I am proud to be associated with the Gift of Life because of the phenomenal work it does in the community.”

This 5K Ribbon Run heightened awareness of the risks and symptoms of breast, ovarian and other gynecological cancers, while also celebrating the strength and courage of cancer survivors. At a poignant Celebration Ceremony, cancer survivors were honored with an energizing and uplifting flash mob and poignantly symbolic balloon release, led by breast cancer survivors Marty Craig, Gift of Life Vice President, and Angels Among Us honorees Beverly Perry and JoAnne Broussard.

“With these balloons, we remember our beloved cancer survivors – those who have fought, those who are fighting and those who are angels, now fighting for us,” they said. “As we let go of our balloons, we send forth this message – you are not alone. With support, we survive and grow. And, to those no longer with us, we remember you today and will remember you always. This balloon is a symbol of our hope, our compassion and our love.”

During the Celebration Ceremony, a flash mob composed of local dance students energized the crowd. Coordinated by Kelli Underhill and choreographed by Gwen Cormier, the flash mob featured poignant statements of survivorship and support.

The 5K honors the loving memory of Julie Richardson Procter, a respected local attorney and devoted Gift of Life board member and volunteer who passed away after a courageous battle with ovarian cancer. It was Procter’s wish that her illness would serve as a meaningful platform to educate women about the signs and symptoms of the disease.

All proceeds from the event benefit the Gift of Life’s breast and ovarian cancer initiatives, which impact thousands of Southeast Texans each year. Along the 5K Ribbon Run route, breast and ovarian cancer educational awareness messages were shared to underscore the mission of the event.

The event also recognized the following 15 Angels Among Us Honorees, extraordinary champions for the organization’s mission and voices of compassion and support for women and cancer survivors:

Mayor Becky Ames, Charlene Babineaux, Joanne Broussard, Bonnie Cokinos, Becky Hunter, Gloria Locke, Jean Moncla, Beverly Perry, Heather Petkovsek, Janey Phelan, Barbara Phillips, Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince, Barbara Quinn, Verna Rutherford and Carol Smith.

On Thursday, October 29, the Gift of Life will continue its celebrations by hosting a Legacy of Love Gala: 20th Anniversary Gala at the Julie Rogers Theatre in Downtown Beaumont, presenting Legendary Entertainer Liza Minnelli, who will light up the stage with a breathtaking concert of her beloved hits and a performance of her Broadway favorites.

Tickets for this event are $125 and sponsorships are still available.

Please call the Gift of Life at 409.833.3663 or visit giftoflifebmt.org for additional event information.

BACKGROUND

Founded in 1994, the Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program offers free healthcare services and education for residents throughout seven Southeast Texas counties. Since inception, the organization has helped extend the lives of more than 250 individuals who have been diagnosed with breast or prostate cancer and navigated through treatment and healing.

During National Ovarian and Breast Cancer Awareness Months (September and October), the Gift of Life organizes and conducts events that empower women as healthcare advocates and further public knowledge and understanding of the symptoms related to these diseases and other devastating female cancers. The organization’s educational outreach encourages the practice of early detection and motivates young people to adopt healthy lifestyles that reduce the incidence of precancerous and cancerous diseases associated with tobacco and alcohol usage.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women with an estimated 234,190 new cases of breast cancer and 40,730 deaths projected in 2015. Mammography can often detect breast cancer at an early stage, when treatment is more effective and a cure is more likely. Numerous studies have shown that early detection saves lives and broadens treatment options.

With the support of Baptist Hospitals, UTMB Galveston and local sponsors, the Gift of Life Breast Cancer Program annually provides more than 2,300 free mammograms and clinical breast exams. Since the organization’s inception, more than 175 Southeast Texas women have been diagnosed with breast cancer and navigated into treatment. During the past two years alone, the Gift of Life has detected breast cancer in 22 women who have been given treatment and support.

In 2011, the Gift of Life and Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas established the Pink Power Network Breast Cancer Support Group to enhance the continuum of care for people at all stages of their diagnoses at monthly meetings that feature relevant healthcare topics and speakers. The meetings, which have an attendance of 30 or more active participants, provide a forum for breast cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and family members to share experiences and hope.

Additionally, in an effort to increase awareness and early detection of cancer, in 2012, the Gift of Life, in partnership with the Lamar University JoAnne Gay Dishman Department of Nursing, formed Cancer Crusaders, an educational initiative that teaches the most advanced signs and symptoms of various types of cancer, as well as the risk factors and diagnosis methods, to medical professionals and the lay community.

According to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, the public is still largely unfamiliar with ovarian cancer, which is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women and the deadliest of all gynecologic cancers. Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, especially in the early stages. Because the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer have been described as vague or silent, only around 20% of ovarian cancer is found in the early stages.

As the early diagnosis of ovarian cancer greatly increases a woman’s chances of survival, it is important for women to be aware of the symptoms such as bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain and trouble eating and risk factors including genetic predisposition, family history of breast, ovarian or colon cancer, increasing age and infertility.  It is also important to note that a Pap test does not detect ovarian cancer.

For additional information regarding a free mammogram, to schedule an outreach presentation or for volunteer opportunities, please call the Gift of Life at 409.833.3663 or visit giftoflifebmt.org.