WEST ORANGE, NJ - Cooler than normal Spring weather and relentless morning showers today did not stop the thousands of participants in the ninth annual Susan G. Komen North Jersey Race for the Cure.
Brushing off the weather, they happily supported the cause at the Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex in West Orange.
Through the annual Race for the Cure, along with other annual events, Komen North Jersey seeks to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research and treatment. Over the years, many survivors have been recognized during these events, but this year Komen also celebrated the efforts of "Forever Fighters," those who continue to live with metastatic (stage IV or advanced) breast cancer.
"It’s the first year we have an exclusive race day medal to recognize and celebrate, what we call, our Forever Fighters," said Gina Fernicola, director of development for Komen North Jersey. "So we are very excited about that, as well as what is in the rest of our program this year."
Kelly Witkowski, executive director of Komen North Jersey, echoed the sentiments of Lois Solomon, this year’s honorary Forever Fighter Ambassador.
“I like how Lois explains it,” said Witkowski. “She says that she is not a survivor, but it’s more like I’m surviving.”
Witkowski joined the Komen team last October. Since then, she said, she has been humbled by the outpouring of support. “We have a lot of exciting events planned and I am looking forward to making a difference in the community to save lives and end breast cancer forever,” said Witkowski.
TAPinto.net was a Platinum Sponsor for this year’s event. Winners were announced by Cory Marks of TAPinto.net and Kristin Wenger, president of the board of trustees for Komen North Jersey. Wenger has been on the board for six years and said she is happy to be a part of the organization that helped her find her way when she was first diagnosed.
“When I was diagnosed, one of the first things I did was call Komen,” said Wenger. “They really provided support and direction and for that I am eternally grateful and want to help them in any way I possibly can.”
Wenger and Marks congratulated and handed out medals to Jeff Altman of Randolph -first place, Ben Guerin of Irvington - second place and Thomas Huckfeldt of Summit - third place for the men’s race; to Amber Matos of East Hanover first place, Michelle Hernandez - second place and Antoinette Courtnery of North Caldwell -third place for the women’s race; and to Leah Kabrt of West Caldwell - first place, Candee McAloon of Summit - second place and Lynn Bircsak of Scotch Plains -third place for the survivor race.
This year’s Presenting Sponsors included ShopRite and Xfinity; Local Survivor Sponsor, Barnabas Health; Gold Sponsors, Bergen Health & Life, Morris/Essex Health & Life, NJ.com and the Todd Group; Silver Sponsors, C.R. Bard and Medieval Times; and Bronze Sponsors Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, Livingston Mall, Atlantic Health System, Pacira Pharmaceuticals, Dunkin Donuts, West Self Storage, PSEG, Pfizer, BASF and Summit Medical Group.