WEST ORANGE, NJ — A record number of supporters participated in the 26th annual Mayor’s 5K Run/Walk to “break the silence” on ovarian cancer on Saturday, which also commemorated the run’s ten-year partnership with the Downtown West Orange Alliance (DWOA) and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC).

The NOCC thanked the mayor’s office and all participants over the last ten years for their dedication to the NOCC’s mission to prevent and cure ovarian cancer and to improve the quality of life for survivors. Former West Orange mayor and current Assemblyman John McKeon, who started the first Mayor’s Run 26 years ago, thanked returning teams and sponsors as well as new participants for continuing to support ovarian cancer research and honoring the fight against it.

“John started this as more of a community event—there weren’t as many runs as there are now, so it was one of the first ones in the area,” said West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi. “When it connected with the [NOCC], it brought it to a whole new level. Now there’s a number of reasons why it’s important to keep it going: not only to promote downtown and celebrate the community, but also to raise awareness for ovarian cancer and celebrate those that are here who are survivors.”

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In 2007, the DWOA and the Northern NJ Chapter of the NOCC collaborated for the first time in memory of Maureen Roehnelt and in honor of West Orange resident Shari-Beth Susskind, an ovarian cancer survivor. Earlier in the week, Susskind lost her mother—causing both avid participants to miss the run for the first time in ten years—but Susskind’s and Roehnelt’s teams continue to be two of the largest teams as well as the top fundraisers on Saturday. 

Prior to the run, the NOCC presented Susskind with a plaque, which was accepted by her three sons, for her 10 years of dedication to the Northern NJ Chapter of the NOCC as “an important, passionate volunteer.” Described as an amazing woman, mother, wife and friend in addition to raising more than $1 million for the cause, Susskind was named an “NOCC Teal Ambassador.”

“It’s a wonderful cause that unfortunately is very near and dear to our hearts because we’ve been touched by it, as so many other people have,” said Jeff Susskind, Shari-Beth’s husband. “We’ve been so thankful for the support throughout the years—especially today.”

With 54 people registered, another large team at Saturday’s event was first-time participants “Team Kathleen.” Kathleen Bushwell Fordyce, currently in her second round of ovarian cancer, flew in from her home in Arizona to participate with her five local siblings—Linda, Brian, Greg, Mike and Mary Kay Bushwell—and was determined to cross the finish line with her 83-year-old father, Ronald.

“To be able to put a name to the face of all these people who I helped register is touching,” said Megan Brill, Executive Director of the DWOA. “I see [Kathleen] with her family today and all these people that love her it’s just really touching.”

Brill was enthusiastic to see that more and more people are running, sponsoring and supporting the event each year. She said the DWOA is glad to provide a venue for people to be able to celebrate and memorialize their loved ones.

“The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition has provided a ribbon of courage for women and their families going through the ovarian cancer battle,” said NOCC Northern NJ Chapter’s Debra Battista, who joined after losing her sister to the disease in 2011. “I truly believe that together we are stronger and we will never back down.”

Following the timed 5K run, which is approximately 3.1 miles, prizes were given to the runners who finished in the top of their group. Categories included: 14 and under, 15-19 years, 20-29 years, 30-39 years, 40-49 years, 50-59 years, 60-69 years, 70-79 years and 80 and over.

Overall First Place went to Gary Rosenberg, 45, with a total race time of 17 min. 49 sec. The first place overall female was Amie Navaro, 33, of Livingston with a time of 21 min. 11 sec.

West Essex Area winners included:

  • Janelle Cleary, 38, of Roseland 30-39 years
  • Lorraine Caputo, 37, of West Caldwell 30-39 year
  • Kim Meyer, 37, of West Caldwell 30-39 years
  • Scott Keenan, 44, of Caldwell 40-49 years
  • Lori Muller, 48, of Caldwell 40-49 years
  • Susanne Keenan, 73, of West Caldwell 70-79 years

Sponsors included: TAPinto.net, insys, Weiman, Wyler’s light, abcodia, Counsyl, myriad, Atlantic Health System, TD, Wilf Family Foundations, Cancer Hope Network, Nisivoccia, JAG Physical Therapy, Wallerstein Foundation, RWJBarnabas Health, G&S Technologies, Sharon & Dave Halpern and Wieseneck.