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the occasions lady and

A Caped Crusader
by Audrey Poff, illustration by Brittney Guest

Last May, the first Northeast Arkansas Race for the Cure took place on the campus of Arkansas State University. After years of Northeast Arkansas residents lobbying for a race of our own, our wish finally came true last year with the help of a multitude of volunteers, a long list of generous sponsors and the leadership of the Komen Arkansas staff.

Like many volunteers, I arrived at Centennial Bank Stadium before sunrise on race day last year. Watching that first race literally take shape from dawn to daylight and seeing thousands of participants breathe life into the event is something that I will never forget. All of the months of planning and countless hours donated by volunteers had made an impact. With more than 4,000 participants registered for the inaugural race, it was the largest 5K to take place in Jonesboro’s history.

The crazy outfits, the pink wigs, the survivor parade before the start of the race – there are lots of memories that are etched in my mind from the first Northeast Arkansas Race for the Cure. The memory that makes me the happiest, however, is one that took place just outside the stadium gates near the end of the race.

With the help of my son, Adam, and daughters Emma and Sophie, I was able to get my parents inside the stadium to watch as participants crossed the finished line. Walking long distances is not an option for them, so with the help of my kids, we were able to drop them off at the gate for the short walk into the stadium.

After watching for an hour or so, we helped them walk out of the stadium and I stopped for a moment to take a few photos. After taking a few snapshots, my mom asked for a photo in the “More Than Pink” Race for the Cure cape that I was wearing. I gladly obliged.

My mom is a breast cancer survivor. She was born during the Depression-era and grew up picking cotton with her siblings on a farm near Blytheville in Mississippi County. With my dad, she raised three children while working full-time for the most part, and then completed her college degree at A-State after the three of us had graduated. She then taught elementary school until her retirement. I volunteer for Race for the Cure in her honor and in honor of countless friends and relatives who are breast cancer survivors.

My sister lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 49. I also volunteer in her memory and in memory of many friends and relatives who have bravely battled breast cancer.

For my mom’s 80th birthday last year, I asked Occasions’ Art Director, Brittney Guest, to draw an illustration of my mom wearing my pink cape last year. Being able to contribute to the first Northeast Arkansas Race for the Cure as communications chair was an honor. Being able to have my mom there with us as a survivor, proudly wearing my pink cape for a photo, was priceless.