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Athens to hold first Race for the Cure to raise awareness of growing breast cancer rates in southeast Ohio

Athens to hold first Race for the Cure to raise awareness of growing breast cancer rates in southeast Ohio

Originally published in The Post.

The Ohio University School of Nursing is holding the first Athens Race for the Cure to raise awareness for the growing problem of breast cancer in Southeastern Ohio.

Ohio University’s School of Nursing held the Pink Paws for the Cause 5K last year and ended up raising $3,000 to donate to help people with breast cancer both emotionally and financially.

Susan G. Komen and the School of Nursing are teaming up once more to make a difference in a much bigger way as it will host its inaugural Athens Race for the Cure on Sunday.

“We donated $3,000 to Komen last year, and as a result of that, they saw we were serious and decided they would partner with us,” Eliza Harper, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and coordinator of the event, said. “So funny enough, it wasn’t us going to partner with them, it was them seeing the success of my nursing students and wanting to partner with us.”

Nicole Phillips, the honorary chair of the event who also has been diagnosed with breast cancer, said the disease is a growing problem, especially within the southeastern region of Ohio.

“Southeastern Ohio has the highest mortality rate in the nation for breast cancer,” Phillips said. “That’s a super scary statistic, and that’s something I didn’t really know about until I was diagnosed.”

Phillips said she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May and since then, has been documenting her journey on her website.

“The only reason why we caught this cancer so early is because from the time I was in college, I went every single year on my birthday for an annual exam,” Phillips, the wife of Ohio basketball coach Saul Phillips, said. “I really want students to be proactive about their health starting now.”

Upon registering, participants are able to form a team to collectively raise money as a group. Phillips also has her own team for this year, which is now at 70 people. The race has raised more than $35,000 out of its $50,000 goal as of press time, according to its website.

“It has taken a lot of dedication from these students,” Harper said. “But I feel that they have gotten a wonderful experience seeing how to make something happen that’s bigger than you.”

Lakin Caudill, a senior studying nursing, said there are some high expectations when partnering with Komen Columbus, but participation is steadily rising.

Both Harper and Phillips said the 5K race in Athens has garnered the attention of about 1,000 participants already but expect it to be closer to 2,000 on Sunday. The race will start at Walter Fieldhouse and ending on the bike path, which runs parallel to the Hocking River.

Caudill said Komen donates 75 percent of the money the event raises back to southeast Ohio region.

“To see 75 percent of the money we make come back to this region will be really big for not only Athens but for the surrounding communities as well,” Caudill said.

Southeast Ohio suffers from lack of services and lack of information when it comes to breast cancer, Harper said. She added that by holding this event the School of Nursing hopes to show people why education is important and its impact.

“I want students to realize the power of a nurse,” Harper said. “We don’t know how many lives this is going to touch, but it will touch a lot.”

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