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Race Day Ready
By Audrey Hanes, Photography by Amy Long

As Jonesboro prepares to host the third annual Northeast Arkansas Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, organizers, led by 2019 Race Chair Amanda Herget, hope to build on previous years’ successes while continuing to make a lasting impact on the fight against breast cancer on a local level.

The 2019 NEA Race for the Cure (RFTC) will take place on April 27 at Centennial Bank Stadium on the Arkansas State University campus and will be accompanied by several other events throughout the weekend. Organizers hope that the more than 4,000 anticipated participants can help raise $350,000 for the nonprofit organization.

Herget, who owns Gearhead Outfitters with her husband, Ted, has served as the Friday Night Event chair for the past two years and welcomed the opportunity to step into the role of chair for the 2019 race.

“Race for the Cure is something I have wanted to be a part of for a long time,” said Herget. “I’ve always wanted to be involved, but being in Little Rock, it wasn’t convenient. … I’ve had so many people affected by breast cancer, it’s been something I have been passionate about getting involved with and didn’t know how until it started here.

“I love putting on events – I do that with the store – putting on races is a lot of fun to me. I love every aspect of it, and I love that it’s at ASU and they are so accommodating. My favorite part of being race chair is seeing people come together for one cause and work together. … I am most excited about seeing survivors, family members and supporters move their bodies for the greater good. No hesitation about the distance ahead, just enjoying the moment, the entertainers and celebrating the day.”

Jonesboro’s successful inaugural race took place in 2017. Combined with the 2018 race, the two events raised more than $775,000 for the world’s largest nonprofit source of funding for the fight against breast cancer.

“Amanda has stepped in to the role of race chair with grace and strong determination to lead her team in pulling off an incredible Komen Northeast Arkansas Race for the Cure,” said Komen Arkansas Executive Director Amy Treadway. “Amanda has personally been touched with breast cancer through close friendships and knows the need for education and services in Northeast Arkansas. She has volunteered hundreds of hours educating community groups, churches, hospitals, schools and more about the importance of early detection to beat the deadly disease; if breast cancer is found in the earliest stage, the survival rate is over 95 percent after five years.”

Herget says she grew up being aware of the devastating effect of breast cancer from a very young age.

“My (paternal) grandmother passed away in ’76, one year before I was born, so even though I didn’t understand what it was, I heard about it from a young age,” she said. “It’s always been something I was aware of. Then, when I was 12, my great aunt was diagnosed and also passed away. There’s not a day my (maternal) grandmother doesn’t talk about her, and she is 89 now.

“Now one of my coworkers, Amy Miller, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. It was triple-negative, so it was very scary for her and her family. She is a single mom and works full time. She was able to beat it, and we got to watch her ring the bell. I’ve been able to watch our work family come together. A lot of them are young – in their 20s – and have been impacted by this and want to be a part of the race because of Amy.”

Miller will be recognized at the 2019 race as an honorary survivor, along with Nancy Blackshare of Rector and Kathy Lemmons of Pocahontas. All three own or work in small businesses, a theme that Herget tried to stick to when selecting the honorees. She also tried to include other areas of NEA, which the committee began focusing on last year.

“Northeast Arkansas has the highest incident of breast cancer and the highest mortality rate in Arkansas,” said Herget. “From what I understand, it’s not necessarily Jonesboro, but it’s the smaller communities that don’t have access to the hospitals, the education, the mammography machines. Even smaller hospitals might not have these machines, so they have to come to Jonesboro or Paragould to have them done, which is not very convenient to people. A lot of people put them off instead of once a year, but that early detection is the key to survival rate. If you can catch it early, that’s the key.”

Herget says that because the disease is unfortunately so common in NEA, almost everyone has been touched by the disease and is eager to get involved with the foundation and the race.

“This community and all of NEA has embraced this race from the beginning because it does affect so many women – one in eight,” said Herget. “Pretty much anyone you go talk to for volunteering or sponsorship, they immediately want to help. We have a lot of great causes here that are all successful, but this community has gone above and beyond to become a part of this event. People hardly say no when we ask if they want to be a part of this race and this cause. After they say yes, they want to know where the money goes. That’s the beautiful thing with this event. The money does come back here.”

Of the money raised already, $338,000 was granted to local hospitals and clinics to fund mammograms, mobile mammography, treatments, patient navigation, education and more. An additional $112,000 was used to pay for research to find better treatments, drugs and ultimately to find a cure for breast cancer.

“Jonesboro and (the) surrounding area is an amazing community of people; in my observation, they are passionate about caring for one another,” said Treadway. “The Northeast Arkansas Race for the Cure raises money to provide care to people in Northeast Arkansas who need assistance with their breast health. And, with Northeast Arkansas being the area of the state with the worst late stage diagnosis and mortality of breast cancer, Komen Arkansas is incredibly fortunate to have a strong group of volunteers who are committed to raising the funding that will stay in your community, and also contribute to research to find better treatments and a cure for breast cancer. 

“… The people, businesses and hospitals in Northeast Arkansas have been supporters of Komen Arkansas and the Arkansas Race for the Cure in Little Rock. In fact, Komen Arkansas has been granting funds in Northeast Arkansas for the past 25 years. Starting a (NEA) race was natural because there was already a base in place from which to grow. Having a separate event in Jonesboro invites thousands of people to participate who might not be able to travel the two hours to Little Rock for the Arkansas race. The participation, outpouring of personal stories and interest for the race and available breast health services in Northeast Arkansas has been astounding. The end result, hopefully, will be a significant decrease in breast cancer instances and mortality.”

Stepping up to sponsor RFTC are presenting sponsor Barton’s and Surplus Warehouse, founding sponsor St. Bernards Healthcare, elite sponsors A-State and NEA Baptist Hospital and Auxiliary and many others.

The committee is largely responsible for event’s early success, as well. Treadway and Herget are joined by Komen NEA Race Director Nancy Elphingstone, Komen Arkansas Board Member Julie Isaacson and former Race Chair Candace Cooper, along with a dedicated committee that includes Communication Chair Audrey Poff, Sponsorship Chair Nancy Elphingstone, Pink Village Chairs Renea Fry and Beth Damphousse, Race Route Entertainment Chairs Renee Harmon and Jenny Keller, Registration Chairs Tammy Lee and Janice Kroeter, Pink Pasta Party Chair Whitney Williams, Field Stage Chair Hidda Spencer, Team Fundraising Chair Ashley Spencer, Race Operations Chairs Courtney Griffin and Kody Griffin, Survivor Breakfast and Parade Chairs Alicia Storey and Kara Fowler, Volunteer Chair Toni Inboden, Pink Pump Run Chairs Hayden Griffin and Ashlyn Cornell, Social Media Chairs Meredith Cook and Madison Tyer, Pink Prowl Chairs Lindsey Ford Wingo and Brandon Stevens, Start Stage Chair Christie Matthews, Medical Assistance Chair Dr. Bhavesh Joshi, Big Wig/Honorary Survivor Chair Lori Fitts and Graphics Chair Anna Long.

Herget chose her longtime friend, pharmacist Kara Smith, to serve as the honorary chair because of her in-depth work with breast cancer survivors.

“She has worked closely with women who have had breast cancer, helping make them feel comfortable, assisting them with bra fittings and so much more,” said Herget. “She works closely with many survivors, so that was a perfect fit.”

Together, all those involved have planned a series of events and celebrations that coordinate with the race and will all work together to battle breast cancer. Friday night’s festivities will again include a Pink Prowl, Pink Pasta Party and the renamed Pink Pump Run, and prior to the race on Saturday morning, there will be a breakfast and parade for survivors.

A new addition to the 2019 RFTC event will be a VIP area in the north end zone for top fundraisers, top survivor fundraisers and top teams. Herget says it will be a way for them all to connect with one another and be recognized away from the large crowd prior to the race.

“Fundraising is just a big focus right now with Komen,” said Herget. “One quote they said that I think is amazing and that was impactful for me is, ‘Fundraising is not all we do, but it’s because of fundraising that we are able to do what we do.’”

For more information about the third annual Northeast Arkansas Race for the Cure, call the Komen Arkansas office at (501) 202-4399 or visit komenarkansas.org