On June 5th, thousands of people will gather on the National Mall to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer. For 20 years, events like Race for the Cure have raised millions and millions of dollars to help women fight the disease and to invest in research to find a cure. During those same years, treatments and early detection programs have improved dramatically.
This season, the Nationals partnered with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to recruit race participants and to raise donations starting with a Mother's Day kick-off to lead up to the race on June 5th. While Major League Baseball celebrates breast cancer survivors with pink bats and game day recognition each Mother's Day, the Nationals wanted to take another step.
"It just made sense for them to be in the ballpark, have some visibility, sign people up for the race and do all that during the month of May," said Israel Negron, Director of Community Service for the Washington Nationals.
"It has affected people within our own community, people on the team as well as our fanbase. It's such a great organization that it's important for us to help them in any way we can."
In addition to allowing Komen volunteers to recruit participants throughout the month, the Nationals also donated discounted tickets and a few special ticket prizes so that participants could take in a Nationals game after the race.
The Nationals First Ladies decided to get involved as well. Rachel Dunn, Ginger Willingham, Trey Harris and others will be raising money and running or walking the 5K.
"Two years ago, my mother was affected. Thanks to early detection because of yearly mammograms, she escaped with a minor surgery but not without a major scare," said Rachel Dunn.
"It is because of such amazing strides in breast cancer research that my mother is okay and many other women for that matter. The screenings that are now performed can detect "problems" before they become a "problem." With that being said, we still have so far to go. Too many families are still affected by breast cancer and the horrible path it can leave; because of this we have to keep fighting, fighting for a cure. Early detection is the key and those screenings should be available to everyone."
The First Ladies will be joined by coaches Pat Listach and Rick Eckstein. For Listach, the event has a really special meaning. His wife Cari was diagnosed with breast cancer almost five years ago. She's doing much better today, but the couple makes it a goal to participate in Komen Foundation events whenever possible.
"We try to do everything we can to raise awareness about what this disease is and how prevalent it is," said Listach.
"People don't know how serious this is until you go through it. I didn't understand until I sat in the chemo room and saw all the ladies going through it. I was really afraid but I never told Cari that. It was eye opening. It's a very serious disease and hopefully we can find a cure someday."
Cari was involved in a special study of the disease, a testament to all the important investments and strides in research and regular check-ups confirm that she's beating the disease.
Up to 75 percent of the money raised for the race will fund screening, treatment and education programs right here in Washington D.C., while the remaining funds will support the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Global Promise Fund, which reaches underserved people in areas where breast cancer mortality rates are the highest.
Small donations can add up to make a big difference in the global fight against breast cancer. Already, June's Race for the Cure in D.C. has raised two million dollars and counting.
MASNsports.com's Ben Goessling and I are also running the Race for the Cure. We invite you to sign-up to join us or to donate to Team NatsTown.