Running for a Cure

The Danville-Pittsylvania Cancer Association, The Danville Running and Fitness, and Danville Parks & Recreation are partnering to bring the 10th Annual Bridge2Bridge 5K, 10Km Bike Ride, and Kids’ Fun Ride to Danville on April 13, 2019. Over 700 people attended the 2018 event that raised 58,000 dollars to help aid the Danville-Pittsylvania Cancer Association’s mission to serve cancer patients in the area.

We asked Bridge2Bridge (B2B) founder and director Karen Johnston, Danville Pittsylvania Cancer Association Executive Director, Nora McFadden, and Wendy Hermann to give us the history and the importance of the event to the community.

SC: How does your personal story play into the creation of B2B?

Karen Johnston: I have always been a strong supporter of charities that help those afflicted with various diseases and disorders, and those that seek a cure. After losing a number of friends and my beautiful sister Phyllis to cancer, I began making contributions to various cancer research groups and charities. I also decided to grow my hair longer and donate it to Locks of Love; an organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss. It seemed like a way to give from the heart and I took comfort in knowing that I would be helping someone in a difficult situation. In 2009, I donated an 11-inch ponytail.

I also resolved to take care of myself and stay healthy and strong: bike riding, running, horseback riding, walking, reading, and spending time with family. These seemed like good ways to enjoy life. Many of these activities I undertook with friends, none of us knowing what was ahead in my journey. In 2008, I was diagnosed with cancer and my own life’s course was changed forever. I was no longer on the sidelines witnessing the battle. I was on the battlefield.

A cancer patient spends a great deal of time in doctors’ offices and labs, and that was true for me. At each visit, I noticed and appreciated the care and love from our local oncologists and their staff. Without fail, they treated me as if I were the only patient ever to be diagnosed, as if I were the most important person in the world. Over time, I came to see that they treated every patient this way. The doctors, nurses, technicians, and receptionists were all incredibly wonderful people. In the chemo lab especially as I sat for hours connected to intravenous therapy. I watched and listened and felt awed at the kindness of the staff—their words of wisdom, their compassion, their gentleness. They even inspired me to consider becoming an oncology nurse, so great was my desire to help people suffering with this illness and so remarkable were the men and women committed to healing me.

During my treatments, I met some of the finest people I have ever encountered, including other patients. We were a team; we were there for the same purpose—trying to stay alive and I noticed that some patients never had family or friends visit like I did. I listened as patients tried to figure out how they were going to return for the next doctor or chemotherapy appointment or how they were going to pay for their medications or their utilities. It was obvious that some patients didn’t have insurance, jobs, transportation, family, or the energy to get through the next day. Even as cancer medicine dripped into my veins, I felt I had to count my blessings and giving thanks to God for sparing my life. I realized I needed to do something to help those less fortunate.

Then, the light bulb came on while I was talking to a physician’s assistant at my doctor’s office. A 5K Run/Walk would be a great way to involve the community and raise money for the Danville- Pittsylvania Cancer Association (DPC) while simultaneously promoting good health habits for participants. What better way for our community to support the DPC, a local organization, in which receives no funding from the American Cancer Society.

Danville-Pittsylvania Cancer focuses on patient-aid and helps pay for cancer-related prescriptions, travel assistance, medical supplies and equipment, wigs, prosthesis and other special needs. They also do provide some educational materials and present educational programs. DPC also has a support group: COPING, which meets on the last Tuesday of every month (except for June and December). That is held at 223 Riverview Dr, Suite H Danville, VA 24541 for any who are interested. DPC also is the host for Throw Paint at Cancer, a peer-to-peer art support group sponsored by SOVAH Health. They have 8-week sessions, instructed by a local cancer survivor. For more information on that support program, please call the office of DPC at 434-791-3227.

Nearly everyone’s life has been affected by cancer, either personally or through a family member or friend. Until there is a cure, there is no escaping it. I have witnessed and felt firsthand the warmth and caring of the people of Danville and Pittsylvania County. I work at Karen’s Hallmark Shop in Danville Mall and over the years; I have met some of my best friends there. Such loving and giving people: parents, family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and customers. I am truly blessed to live in this wonderful community of such solid, good-natured people. Southside Virginia is truly a place where people care about each other. We each have talents or gifts that we’ve been given, and we must use them in positive ways. When we all join together like my friends and family have done, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.

SC: How does B2B help cancer treatment in our area?

Nora McFadden: Cancer is everywhere. It does not discriminate and everyone in some way, shape, or form, has been affected by cancer, whether that is oneself, a family member, or friend. Bridge 2 Bridge is the biggest contributor for the Danville-Pittsylvania Cancer Association (DPC). DPC is a local, nonprofit organization serving cancer patients in the City of Danville and Pittsylvania County. Established in 1950, Danville-Pittsylvania Cancer, formally Danville Cancer Association, became a 501 (c)(3) in 1960, and an incorporation in 1976. The mission of DPC is to Unravel the Effects of Cancer. With the efforts of all B2B participants, sponsors, and volunteers, DPC is able to assist financially with the costs of cancer-related prescriptions, travel reimbursement/assistance, medical supplies and equipment, nutritional supplements, prothesis, wigs, and other special needs relating to cancer and/or treatments. B2B is vital to the efforts of DPC in serving the cancer patients in our community. Since the 1st annual race in 2009, B2B has contributed over $400,000 to DPC! Just in the last year, DPC provided over $65,000 in cancer-related prescriptions, $97,000 in patient travel, and $20,000 in supplies, such as nutritional supplements and wigs. The assistance that they provide can overall help with one’s cancer marathon in itself. A growing organization, the proceeds of B2B help DPC in continuing the assistance to the Danville/Pittsylvania County community.

SC: What has led to B2B becoming an important event for the community?

Wendy Hermann: Bridge2Bridge is an important event in our community for many reasons, but two specific things stand out to me when answering this question. They are the financial support we provide to DPC and the sense of community that this event holds.

The money we raise is BY our community, FOR our community. It is integral to the lives of those facing the challenges of fighting cancer in the Dan River Region. All proceeds that we raise by hosting this event are used to assist patients with the costs of prescriptions, supplies, transportation, and various other things. Every year the need for assistance from the Danville Pittsylvania Cancer Association grows, as does our commitment to helping them and in effect, helping others.

As we celebrate our 10-year anniversary in 2019, we are humbled, amazed and so very grateful for the community’s unwavering support of this annual tradition. This event brings smiles to the faces of patients fighting this disease, gives hope to their loved ones, and gives a sense of community to all those participating. People tell us all the time how they look forward to this event every year, they proudly wear their shirts from years past, they gather their friends in support of friends and loved ones and consider this a day of celebration. This event is welcoming to all and helps bring us closer as a community. Bridge2Bridge has helped create a strong sense of community with people from all walks of life and when you build a strong sense of community, amazing and powerful transformations begin to happen.

If you’re interested in helping out, but not participating in the races, volunteers are the lifeblood of B2B. It takes about 150 volunteers to make the race run smoothly. There are many opportunities to help: setting up on Friday before the race, cleaning up on Saturday after the race, helping to hand out registration packets, standing along the race route and providing directional assistance, manning a water stop, leading or following a race on a bicycle, helping with the 39-mile bike ride and many other tasks. With the exception of the lead bicycle riders, these jobs do not require any particular skill set. Volunteering is easy, just go to the race website and select VOLUNTEER from the menu on the left-hand side of the page.

For more information visit Bridge2Bridge