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‘Race for the cure’: Susan G. Komen walk a major breast cancer fund raiser

By Staff | Feb 13, 2010

Each year Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure raises hundreds of thousands of dollars in local funding to support breast cancer initiatives in Southwest Florida.
One of the largest cancer fund-raising events in the five counties, the race includes more than 8,000 runners and 700 breast cancer survivors who walk or run 5-kilometers or close to 3 miles. The 2010 event is scheduled for March 13 at Coconut Point in Estero and organizers are hoping to raise more than last year’s $914,000.
“Unfortunately, the need in the community has risen and we have had more request than ever for financial support from our partners,” said Miriam Ross, executive director of Komen for the Cure in Southwest Florida. “I hope the community will come out and be supportive and help us raise the money necessary.”
The organization has come along way since its inception in 2002 when they gave out $5,000 worth of grants in their first year. Now they are raising close to $1 million per event and funnel the proceeds to local organizations working with people who are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Ross said that requests from agencies have steadily increased each year. Last year there were $1.8 million worth of grant requests and the organization gave out its largest amount ever, $963,000. The Susan G. Komen affiliate has contributed more than $3 million to the community and put $1 million to new research in the field.
Susan G. Komen has affiliates across the nation also raising money to help both women and men. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer for women, according to the American Cancer Society, and although it is rare in men, cases do exist.
The ACS estimates that 192,370 new cases of female breast cancer were diagnosed across the United States in 2009. In Florida that amounts to 11,850 new cases with an estimated 2,760 who likely will lose their battle.
Leesa Crapa, 48, moved to Cape Coral two years ago from Memphis, Tenn. Last June she found a lump in her breast and even though she didn’t have health insurance, she contacted Lee County’s Partners for Breast Cancer Care. This organization pays for breast cancer screening and treatment for men or women who don’t have health insurance or are underinsured.
“I found a lump and, not having any insurance, I went to Partners for Breast Cancer Care and they told me about Dara Leichter,” said Crapa.
Besides paying for her healthcare needs, Partners for Breast Cancer Care connected Crapa with a breast health navigator named Dara Leichter. Working for Lee Memorial Health System’s Breast C.A.R.E. (Cancer Assistance Resource Expansion) Program, she assists patients with paperwork, and filing for assistance, as well as education, guidance and counseling.
“She had all of the paperwork ready and when it came back as malignant, it was a matter of like 24 hours, and I was covered retroactively,” said Crapa.
Leichter is the only navigator in Lee County, said Crapa, and is typically busy assisting patients across the county. Months later she helped Crapa through the challenging process of undergoing a mastectomy.
Finding out she had breast cancer has brought Crapa’s life “to a halt.” She takes intravenous drips of treatment once every week and has seven weeks to go. Even after that round of medication she is unclear when she’ll be able to work again or return to the life she had before finding the lump.
But, she is grateful to the local organizations for their help.
“They saved my life,” she said.
Partners for Breast Cancer Care and the Breast C.A.R.E. Program both receive funding from Susan G. Komen. Leichter’s organization received $209,350 in grant money last year while Partners for Breast Cancer Care was given $207,100.
This year’s race features honorary chair James Denton, an actor who stars on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.” Southwest Florida Ford dealers are also offering a free 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid to the winner of “Think Pink, Drive Green” sweepstakes. Local residents can enter the drawing at one of the regional dealerships and the drawing will be at the race.
Ford dealers are also donating $20 for every sweepstakes entrant, with a maximum of $20,000, to the Race for the Cure.
For more information about the race or Susan G. Komen for the Cure, visit www.komenswfl.org.