Families Emerge from Tragedies to Race for Hope

Families Emerge from Tragedies to Race for Hope

Washington, DC race aims to raise $1 million.

The Cassidy and Pinkard Race for Hope — an annual 5K race and walk in Washington, D.C. — aims to raise $1 million for brain tumor research this year.

Eight years ago, when the race began, it raised $60,000.

“Our event is unique in that it is purely run by volunteers. We don’t have a local office and there are just three of us who were sitting around a table planning the first year event. And it is three of us who had a passion for fighting brain tumors. And it has snowballed from there,” said Barry Glassman, a Potomac resident and co-chair of this year’s race.

The race raises money through individual donations, pledges in support of runners, and corporate sponsorships. Runners may enter as individuals or as part of fundraising teams which take part in a friendly competition for the “top fund-raiser” spot on the race’s Web site.

The race is now the largest brain tumor research fund-raising event nationally and draws teams from Philadelphia, New York City, California, and the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., among others. Among the participants are not only families who have lost a loved one to a brain tumor, but those currently fighting the cancer and long-term survivors.

Seven Locks Elementary School, which has been affected by several brain tumor deaths, will field a team of 40 or more walkers, carrying a Seven Locks banner. The school participated in a fund-raiser at Baja Fresh in Potomac and members of the fourth grade class solicited donations in front of the Cabin John Giant on April 16. Students gave up their recess periods to work on the banner.

Last year the race raised $700,000, which was handed out in the form of seven $100,000 research grants through the Boston-base Brain Tumor Society.

In 2000, the real estate development company Cassidy and Pinkard became the lead sponsor of the event, when co-founder Pat Cassidy was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Other sponsors such as Duron Wallcoverings, the Washingtonian Magazine, and the radio station Mix 107.3 have joined because of employees battling or lost to brain tumors.

The goal of the race is three-fold, said Jonathan Weinberg, another co-chair, whose father Rabbi Joseph P. Weinberg died in 1999. “One, by far and away, is let’s raise dollars and get it to doctors to find the answer. The other, two, is sharing of information with someone who’s newly diagnosed. .... And then the third is sort of this sense of community. People going through a tough, scary time, for this larger thousands of people to say, ‘We’re with you and we’re going to fight with you,’ that means an awful lot.”

Many families affected by brain tumors said that the race provides both a supportive and informative community, and most importantly, the chance to feel that they are doing something in response to a disease that made them feel helpless.

“When somebody loses their spouse or a friend to a brain tumor, their whole support group is looking to do something to help. And loved ones, at least in this area where we have a lot of people who are doers, are looking to do something,” Glassman said. “Every year we receive dozens of calls from families who have been impacted by brain tumors. And they join our ranks.”

That was the case for Amy Gleklen, a Potomac resident and Seven Locks parent whose father died of a brain tumor six years ago.

“What the race does — and it’s so concrete — it really gives you an opportunity to help with that grieving process,” she said. “When my father died, I went through that feeling of wanting to do something that would be good. Because it’s so awful. … It gave me an outlet to do something positive.”