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Race for the Cure Preparations Have Local Flair

Springfield resident Fran Staiman is a breast-cancer survivor who looks forward to the annual Race for the Cure, not only for raising research money but for the contact with fellow survivors she now considers friends.

"The race and camaraderie and all, it means a lot to a lot of people. The cause is dear to my heart. It's a warm feeling," she said.

Her involvement isn't limited to the race alone, though. She is one of the main organizers at Fresh Fields/Whole Foods Market, where people may sign up for the race. Work starts months in advance.

"Starting in March, the work really gets heavy," she said.

Over at Mantua Elementary School in Fairfax, a team of 45-50 will be participating as well. Although Mantua's had a team for the last three or four years, according to teacher Ronnie Hanpeter, this year will be special. In December, fifth-grade teacher Roberta Romano died of breast cancer.

"It's a cause close to everyone. This year is especially meaningful. We lost a dear friend here at school. One of our teachers died in December," Hanpeter said.

They have signed up parents, teachers, administrators, staff and some former students.

"It's quite a sight to see all the women at the race. It's quite moving," she said.

Staiman will be manning the registration for the Race for the Cure on May 5 and May 6 out in front of the Fresh Fields/Whole Foods Market store. Last year, more than 400 community members registered for the race at the Springfield store, and they had one of the largest teams, Team Fresh, with more than 200 Fresh Fields/ Whole Foods Market employees running or walking in the 1-mile fun run.

In addition, the store is selling Bouquets for the Cure, April 19-June 2. The Bouquets for the Cure sell for $12.99 each, with $3 from every bouquet donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

These donated funds remain in the metro area to support local education, screening, and treatment programs.

Parisa Saifollahi, 18, raced last year with the Fresh Fields/Whole Foods Market team. She felt the camaraderie as well.

"Everybody's together for the same thing. Some are running for someone they knew that died from cancer. You felt like you were helping out just by being there," Saifollahi said.

The event started in 1989 and was organized by Nancy Brinker, the sister of cancer victim Susan G. Komen, who died at the age of 36. According to their Web site, proceeds from the Komen Race for the Cure Series help fund breast-cancer research as well as breast-health initiatives on a local level. Seventy-five percent of the proceeds remain in the local community where the race is held, helping to support breast-health education and breast-cancer screening and treatment programs for the medically underserved. These programs are funded based on a special-needs assessment survey performed by each Komen affiliate. A minimum of 25 percent of race proceeds help fund breast-cancer research and project grants awarded through Komen Foundation headquarters.

The Komen Race for the Cure Series is the largest series of 5K runs/fitness walks in the world. In 2002, races will be held in more than 100 U.S. cities and three foreign countries with more than 1.3 million participants expected.

Notable figures that are part of this year's race include honorary Washington, D.C., chairs Mayor Anthony Williams and Diane Williams; founding chair of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Nancy Brinker; honorary survivor chair, U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick; national series honorary chair, Francie Larrieu Smith.

"Nancy Brinker made her [Susan Komen] a promise. She started the race," Staiman said.

Staiman noted the progress she sees in the fight against breast cancer. She sees life differently as a survivor.

"It makes people more aware, brings people together. It took me a long time to live more than day by day. I'm very happy to be alive," she said.