By JENNIFER MEIER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
This is time of year when Middlebury turns pink.
Sunday marks the eighth annual Middlebury Walks For a Cure, a popular and pink event that last year attracted more than 700 people, all with the same hope — to eradicate breast cancer.
The day’s events on and around the Essenhaus grounds include a 5K run/walk, a 1K fun walk, a multi-item raffle, vendors, a very pink fire truck and a talk given by cancer survivor Traci Runge.
Runge is the first women in the world to donate both healthy and cancerous breast tissue to the Susan G. Komen Tissue Bank at IU Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis.
The samples are important for researchers trying to find out what might cause a change from healthy to diseased tissue.
Runge’s contribution was highlighted during last year’s Super Bowl with the Super Cure Initiative when she was featured on billboards and videos posted on the Super Bowl website.
This former Ligonier resident and West Noble High School graduate, now living in Carmel, is thrilled to be returning to her hometown area to tell her story.
“I am so looking forward to doing this,” Runge said. “I feel such a connection with this area where I was raised. I want to share how I overcame cancer — how everyone has a chance to do the same and be health and happy,” Runge said.
Runge will also talk about her ongoing experience with reconstructive surgery.
Most reconstructive surgeries involve either tissue expanders or the use of a muscle from the back. Radiation treatments have made the first option unavailable to Grunge and the second option leaves the patient with limited arm and shoulder movement.
“I am a very active person, and I just can’t see doing that,” Runge said. “I will be doing something very different from the norm. It’s adult stem cell therapy.”
This process takes stem cells from fat and injects them into the breast area. This stretches the skin and allows implants to be used.
Walking ‘in their shoes’
During the school year Runge works full time at Carmel High School as a support study hall teacher for children with disabilities. She also is on the board for a peer facilitator group at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. This project, to be up and running before the end of the year, assigns volunteers to cancer patients, offering them support, information and encouragement.
“I am very excited to be a part of that,” Runge said. “Each one of us has walked in their shoes.”
Runge’s talk begins a 1 p.m. at the Das Dutchmen Essenhaus Conference Center.
Also at the center will be vendors including The Animals out of Kokomo, Middlebury’s Infuse Salon offering pink hair extensions, Seasonal Treasures, Initials Inc. and Mary Kay cosmetics as well as vendors offering massages and personalized note cards. The Association for the Disabled of Elkhart County (ADEC) recently opened a coffee shop in Middlebury, Gaining Grounds. ADEC will be providing coffee to those attending on a donation basis.
A survivor table and a prayer table are part of this year’s event. Participants can attach a paper to their clothing that bears the name of a friend or loved one who they are walking or running in honor or in memory of. Cancer survivors also receive a gift. The prayer table was idea from Middlebury Walks For a Cure board member Dawn Zmuda.
“Prayer is important to me and I know it is to Nean Smith, who founded this walk,” Zmuda said. “Some people appreciate prayer. And having cancer can be a big spiritual journey for them.”
Zmuda has asked people to write down their prayer concerns and praise and drop them in box at the prayer table. The board will pray for each of the co ncerns and stay in touch with those who wish to have continued prayers.
Fun for all
Following the 5K Walk/Run and 1 K Fun Walk, participants are offered water, snacks and fruit. Registration for the walk begins at 11:30 a.m. and the walk/run begins at 2 p.m.
A 1950 refurbished Schwinn Girl’s bicycle, a Kitchen Aid Mixer, jewelry, blankets, home décor, pink chairs and a gumball machine containing a $100 are just some of the items to be raffled.
There will be no missing a pink fire truck named Izzy that will be parked outside the conference center.
The truck belongs to Clay Fire Territory Fire Marshal Dave Cherrone and his wife Izzy. The two travel to events such as this one and also visit cancer patients and survivors offering care packages and messages of hope and support. Cancer survivors can sign the truck. To date more than 600 signatures grace the sides of the pink fire engine.
Event organizers are asking participants to wear pink and enter to win the “Pretty in Pink” contest.
Cost for the 5K Walk/Run is $30 for adults and $10 for children 12 and younger.