BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater Mayor Dan Hayes announced that the township will observe October as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Month annually, in honor of resident Donna Karlis, who died from the disease in 2017 at the age of 42, according to a release.
The Donna M. Karlis Memorial Fund worked with the mayor's office to put together a proclamation that was presented by councilwoman Christine Henderson Rose at the fund's inaugural Team ROAR 5K and 1-Mile event Oct. 6 at Duke Island Park. According to the release, about 400 people attended the event.
"After learning about Donna's story, and more about metastatic breast cancer, I immediately signed on," Hayes said in the release. "I am asking Bridgewater residents and businesses to help recognize and support this cause so that more public discussion, education and research funding can be done. Together we can work toward turning this incurable disease into one that more people can live longer and survive."
According to the release, metastatic breast cancer is different from early stage breast cancer because it is advanced breast cancer, stage IV, and is defined by the spread of cancer cells beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to non-adjacent organs.
"My family would like to thank Mayor Hayes for decreeing October as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Bridgewater," Michael Karlis, chairman of the memorial fund and Donna's husband, said in the release. "In addition to the emotional support it shows for MBC patients, their families and my family, it is witness to the mayor's and the township's understanding of the seriousness of MBC and their desire to recognize the disease as such and to support our mission of finding a cure."
Team ROAR was created in 2013 after Donna Karlis was first diagnosed, and the team would walk and run to show their support. After she died, Team ROAR decided to continue as her team.
Proceeds from the 5K and 1-Mile Walk will benefit local metastatic breast cancer patients through the Somerset Health Care Foundation, and the other 50 percent will benefit METAvivor Research and Support, Inc.
The donation from Team ROAR will be made available to help patients with MBC, regardless of income or where they receive treatment for services including living expenses, transportation to the Steeplechase Cancer Center at RWJUH Somerset and recovery items.
Highlights from the race this year included Bridgewater-Raritan High School student, Kiley Baxter singing the national anthem; Somerset Patriots’ Sparky guest appearance; DOT OUT MBC painted pumpkins offered for donation to benefit the fund and painted by Bridgewater students; a
dedication tent where guests could write inspirational messages on DMK ribbons to honor those living with MBC and in memory of those who have died from it; and featured speakers.
Rose said in the release that she was touched by the personal stories.
"People of all ages participated, and it was clear that the event heightened the awareness of this incurable disease for all who were there," she said. "It gave me hope for the future in finding a cure."