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Popular cancer fundraising run in Towson to take place virtually this year

Runners take part in the 2018 Outrun Cancer 5K in Towson.
Runners take part in the 2018 Outrun Cancer 5K in Towson. (Caitlin Faw / For Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Kate Poffenberger, co-owner of Graul’s Market Ruxton and Mays Chapel, is a longtime supporter of the American Cancer Society.

Her support for the organization began after her grandfather, Harold Graul, died of thyroid cancer in his early 80s in 2003.

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In honor of her grandfather, Poffenberger and the market started Graul’s Fight Cancer Day, a fundraiser held by the market to benefit Relay for Life, a fundraiser held by the cancer society to help find cures for cancer.

“There isn’t anybody that hasn’t had someone who has been touched by cancer,” she said. “I would love to have a day where we weren’t losing people from cancer.”

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In 2018, ACS volunteers in Towson created the Outrun Cancer 5K and 1 Mile Family Fun Run to support cancer research on a local level.

Typically held at Goucher College, the event will be take place virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Aug. 2, 29 participants will be able to run anywhere — around their house or neighborhood or on a trail or treadmill — to join in the fight against cancer.

Christine Schifkovitz, an American Cancer Society volunteer in Towson, said due to the pandemic preparations for the event looked much different this year.

“COVID has impacted a lot of organizations and the fight against cancer has been challenged,” she said. “We had to come up with a way to offer virtual sponsorship opportunities and educate people on what a virtual run is.”

Despite the cancellation of many large-scale events, she said it is important that the event be held because of the impact the pandemic has had on cancer research and treatments. To join the event, participants pay a $20 registration fee and are encouraged to accept donations.

Since March, health centers and patients have been urged to delay routine cancer screenings. As a result, screenings for breast, cervical and colon cancer are down between 86% and 94%, according to the ACS. Studies estimate that reduced screenings, delayed surgeries and failure to complete chemotherapy treatments and more will result in nearly 34,000 excess cancer deaths due to issues caused by COVID-19.

“COVID has impacted a lot of cancer issues,” Schifkovitz said. “We want to provide those services to continue to do cancer research to help people in the future.”

Although the event will be held virtually this year, she said she hopes it will still bring in the money needed to support cancer research and treatment. Last year, the event raised around $35,000 and hopes to raise $45,000 this year, Schifkovitz said.

“This is not only an event, it’s a support system as well,” she said. “It allows families that went through similar experiences to lean on one another for support.”

Marci Cooke, of Towson, has participated in the event the past two years. As a survivor of colon cancer, she formed a team with her family to support her mother, who is undergoing treatment.

She said it is important to continue to raise awareness.

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“Cancer doesn’t end because there is a virus,” she said. “People are dealing with a cancer diagnosis every day.”

Besides Graul’s Market Ruxton and Mays Chapel, sponsors of the event include Greater Baltimore Medical Center and the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.

Poffenberger, who will be participating in the virtual run, will be leading the team Graul’s Fight Cancer. So far, the team has raised $772, according to the event web page.

She said she hopes the event will educate people about cancer and help in the search to find a cure.

“I don’t want anyone to have to lose a loved one like I did,” she said. “[We want] to do whatever we can do to find a cure so no one has to lose someone they love.”

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