Komen race celebrates local woman 'lucky to be alive' Former heart attack victim is among 11,500 participants and about 5,000 spectators at the 23rd annual Maryland Race for the Cure
One year after collapsing from a massive heart attack during the Susan G. Komen Maryland Race for the Cure, Patti Weber was back in the race Sunday — a little anxious, a little teary and a whole lot grateful.
The name of her fundraising team? Lucky to be Alive.
"All of my family stayed really close to me today. I didn't make it to one mile last year," said Weber, 60, who was among 11,500 participants and about 5,000 spectators at the 23rd annual race in Hunt Valley to fund breast cancer educational programs, research and grants.
Part of Weber's mission was to again thank the firefighters and emergency medical technicians she credits with saving her life after passing out on the race route in October 2014. Among those she found and hugged on Sunday was rescue specialist Scott Weiner of Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Company 500. "It's nice to hear a follow-up from her," Weiner said. "In some ways it reminds you of why we do what we do."
Participation in the race was down from last year's 14,500 registrants, and fundraising has been off about 20 percent from last year's total of $1.7 million. "I think we still have time for that to pick back up," said Mark Roeder, Maryland executive director of the national nonprofit organization. "We have over 11,000 people that participated, and our actual fundraising average is up a little per person. Between now and the next several months, when people can keep sending in their donations, we'll go ahead and close the gap."
Like last year, Weber, of Baltimore, was there to support her daughter, Kelly Weber, 39, a breast cancer survivor. She was also backing her friend, Lenore Koors, 58, a former top Komen development official who was diagnosed with the disease in August and says she now benefits from the same support programs she once raised money for. The organization says up to three-quarters of the funds raised locally stay in the community.
With about 130 members, Lucky to be Alive — whose members wore black T-shirts with white horseshoe logos — was among the largest teams arriving near Hunt Valley Town Centre in the predawn chill amid intermittent rain.
For the team, the race was not only about trying to eradicate breast cancer — Maryland has the nation's sixth-highest breast cancer rate — but also about celebrating Patti Weber's return from her heart attack in the middle of a pack of walkers and runners.
"I said, 'Lenore, I feel dizzy' and I tried to grab her to hold myself and I went down," she recalled after walking one mile Sunday. "They put a stent in immediately that morning and they had to do open heart surgery like two weeks later."
Said Koors: "It was terrifying. She doesn't remember it, but I started just hollering for medical professionals and we had a doctor and nurse doing chest compressions."
An emergency staff member from Greater Baltimore Medical Center was nearby and among the first on the scene, according to Weiner. "If she were home alone, she would be gone," Koors said. "Everybody said she was at the right place at the right time."
On Sunday, Weber carried a glass plaque to present to the people who rescued her. "Thank you Firefighters & EMTs," it said in white letters. "Lucky to be Alive" appeared in cursive at the top.
Other race participants wore pink shirts, hats, shoes or tutus and ran to support mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters and other relatives or friends.
Jeanne George, 59, of Towson said she was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. "I was Stage 4 and told I had six months to live," she said.
When she came to the Komen race the next year, "I started seeing that someone had 10 years (since the diagnosis) like I do now. The first lady I met, she had 19 years and she was such a sweetheart. I look for her every year and we walk the survivors' walk together."
The day included a competitive 5K, a recreational 5K and 1-mile walk. Gabriel Lloyd, 18, of Dover, Pa., recorded the fastest time — 17 minutes, 26 seconds in the 5K. Sherry Stick, 37, of Eldersburg was the fastest woman at 18:26.
Komen officials aren't sure why fundraising has been trending down. One theory is "that there are so many walks for causes these days, that people might be experiencing 'event fatigue,' " said Kim Schmulowitz, the Komen Maryland spokeswoman.
She said donations usually continue to come until early December from the race and that "we are grateful for all of our loyal supporters and those who are new to our event."
The event is the biggest fundraiser for the group, which awarded more than $1 million to 17 programs in the state in fiscal 2015 for women with breast cancer or being screened for the disease. Another $430,000 from Komen Maryland went toward national research.