BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Donna M. Karlis Memorial Fund will be hosting its first major public event, the Team ROAR 5K and 1-Mile Walk on Sunday, Oct. 6 at Duke Island Park in Bridgewater.

Its goal is to raise awareness, education and money for stage IV/metastatic breast cancer research, as well as resources for area residents living with MBC. It is the only MBC-specific race in Somerset County, and only one of a few in New Jersey dedicated to this incurable disease.

Those interested in running, walking and/or volunteering for the event can register at runsignup.com/Race/NJ/Bridgewater/TeamROAR5K. On-site registration and check-in will be available beginning at 8 a.m. The race starts at 9:30 a.m. and the walk begins at 9:45 a.m., followed by awards and a brief ceremony. The sponsorship deadline has been extended to Sept. 10.

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Metastatic breast cancer is advanced breast cancer, or stage IV, and is defined by the spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to non-adjacent organs such as the lung, liver, bones and brain. While it is incurable, receiving proper treatment can increase quality of life and longevity.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset’s Steeplechase Cancer Center in Somerville, N.J. is Team ROAR’s medical partner and platinum sponsor for the race.

Team ROAR 5K and 1-Mile Walk proceeds will be split between the Steeplechase Cancer Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset and METAvivor Research and Support. 

Team ROAR’s donations will be made available to help patients with MBC at the Steeplechase Cancer Center, regardless of income. Team ROAR’s funding can include: living expenses, transportation to the Steeplechase Cancer Center at RWJUH Somerset and recovery items such as lymphedema sleeves, wigs, head scarves and post mastectomy undergarments from the Sanofi US Wellness Boutique at the Steeplechase Cancer Center.

“We are proud to partner with Team ROAR to raise awareness of metastatic breast cancer and to help find a cure,” said Kathleen Toomey, MD, medical director of the Steeplechase Cancer Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset. “Their support will also help us improve the quality of life for our patients who are coping with the disease.”

METAvivor is dedicated to providing support for women and men with metastatic breast cancer and funding research to transition MBC from a terminal illness to a controlled, chronic condition.

“METAvivor is very thankful to Team ROAR for its efforts to raise money for stage IV metastatic breast cancer (MBC) research and to support patients living with the disease. We are very excited to partner with them,” said Sonya Negley, executive director for METAvivor. “Each day, we lose 114 men and women to MBC which is frankly, unacceptable. The only way to stop this terminal disease from taking more lives is to fund research. METAvivor puts 100 percent of every donation toward MBC research to find life-extending treatments and therapies.”

The race is being held in memory of Bridgewater resident Donna M. Karlis, who died after a brave and inspiring battle with metastatic breast cancer in September 2017 at age 42.

Donna was a devoted mom to two little girls and to her husband of 10 years. She was a loving daughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend. She touched so many people with her kindness and generosity. Donna was a former teacher for Cranford Public Schools. She then worked as a volunteer for St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church catechism classes and the Crim Primary PTO, both in Bridgewater.

Donna was determined to live fully and did so with dignity and grace. She exemplified courage, strength and a positive attitude. Donna provided support, guidance and hope to other women also fighting breast cancer. She worked to raise breast cancer awareness and specifically wanted to increase knowledge about MBC. Donna wished for her family and friends to continue her fight to cure metastatic breast cancer and to provide more representation for those who live with it.

“We know how overwhelmed a metastatic breast cancer patient feels when they receive this diagnosis,” said Michael Karlis, chairman of the Donna M. Karlis Memorial Fund and Donna’s husband.  “We are here for them.  This was our promise to Donna, and we will continue to fulfill that promise by fighting for them with the goal of ending this disease.”

Donna’s family and friends created Team ROAR in her honor after she was first diagnosed in 2013. They ran and walked to support her and to raise money for breast cancer awareness and early detection. The team logo and name is inspired by one of Donna’s fight songs, “Roar” by Katy Perry.

Team ROAR also displays a pink ribbon that is synonymous with breast cancer awareness, however, it added yellow because MBC is different than a regular breast cancer diagnosis. Many patients will recover from an early stage breast cancer diagnosis. MBC is incurable, but Team ROAR hopes to change that.

More than 150,000 women are living with MBC in the United States, and 75 percent of them initially had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, according to a 2017 National Cancer Institute study.

The race is a USA Track & Field (USATF) sanctioned event. Timing and scoring will be conducted by CompuScore. Free parking will be available at Duke Island Park, 191 Old York Road, Bridgewater. Awards will be given to the top three male and female finishers, overall and by age group. Race T-shirts and giveaway bags will be available, while supplies last on race day.

To learn more about the Steeplechase Cancer Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, visit www.rwjbh.org/somerset. For more information about METAvivor, visit METAvivor - Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness, Research and Support | METAvivor.

Follow the Donna M. Karlis Memorial Fund Facebook page for weekly updates at https://www.facebook.com/dmkmemorialfund/. Also, on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/dmk_memorial_fund/.

The Team ROAR 5K and 1-Mile Walk is being co-chaired by volunteer Bridgewater residents, Rowena Riina and Rose Fischer. Contact TeamROAR5k@gmail.com with questions.

Donations can be made through the race Web site: https://runsignup.com/Race/NJ/Bridgewater/TeamROAR5K or can be sent to the Donna M. Karlis Memorial Fund ℅ Team ROAR, P.O. Box 6214, Bridgewater, N.J. 08807. A tax identification number will be provided for all donations.

The Donna M. Karlis Memorial Fund is a 501 (c) (3) New Jersey non-profit organization. Our mission is to raise awareness, education and resources for local stage IV/ metastatic breast cancer patients and MBC research.