More than 1,000 people faced the chilly wind and drizzling rain to run the track at the Rideau Carleton Raceway on Sunday, Sept. 30, to raise funds for brain cancer research and put an end to the deadly disease.
The inaugural South Ottawa Race Day raised more than $80,000 as of midday on Sunday.
“We were completely overwhelmed by the community’s response,” said Chris Hill, one of the organizers. “This particular disease touches a lot of people.
“I think the brain cancer community was looking for a voice and I think they found it in this race. There were a whole bunch of people who had stories to tell. It was unbelievable, the number of people who had been affected and were looking for a way to get involved, and the way they rallied around this common story.”
Barrhaven resident Leslie McCarthy was honoured during the closing ceremonies for raising $5,200, the most by an individual.
McCarthy didn’t know Greely resident Heather Geddie, who was the catalyst for the event, but was driven to do her part after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer just a few weeks before the race.
“This meant a lot to me,” she said.
McCarthy was joined by her husband Chris Levac and their two daughters, Maddison and Charlie Rose.
Greely resident and Earl of March Secondary School graduate Heather Geddie was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour in 2009. She fought the disease for two years before passing away in July 2011.
Members of the community were so inspired by Geddie’s positive attitude that after her death they decided to host the South Ottawa Race Day to fundraise for brain cancer research.
“What an accomplishment for a first-year event,” said Peter Linkletter, chair of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and a resident of Findlay Creek.
He said he’s “very touched and very proud” at how the community rallied to support the cause, adding participants came from as far away as Nova Scotia and Winnipeg.
“The outpouring of love and support…we knew we’d never be able to thank people enough,” said Geddie’s husband, Kevin.
“I would like to see others who have to travel this same road find a happier destination.”
Kevin, who sang a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World, with the Manotick Village Singers, presented Coburg resident Danielle Provost with the Heather Geddie Community Action Award.
Provost, who is undergoing a battle similar to Geddie’s, said “it was wonderful to see all the beautiful people.”
Geddie’s parents, Don and Pat White, said it was incredible that their daughter inspired such an event.
“She would be overjoyed,” said Don. “She will help us find a cure.”
Hill said he hopes the South Ottawa Race Day becomes “one of the key events in the Ottawa race series, and that runners start to mark it in their calendars.”
The original fundraising goal of the inaugural race was set at $50,000, a number that was quickly surpassed thanks to the efforts of all those involved. A new target of $75,000 was also exceeded, with the total coming in at more than $80,000 in funds raised.
“This will allow us to support innovative research,” said Hill. “What came across loud and clear is that there are really not a lot of treatment options. Sometimes the treatments are worse than the disease.”
The two-kilometre family walk/run around the oval was “unbelievably popular,” he said, adding the organizing team is looking at making that a highlight of next year’s event.
“It allowed people in various stages of their fight to walk it,” said Hill, adding they are looking at continuing the half-marathon relay.
“I have never been touched by this particular disease and through my involvement what strikes me is the prevalence of the disease and the extent to which those who have been impacted were looking for a voice,” he said. “We’re still on a bit of a high. We’re completely overwhelmed by the response of the community.”
With files from Emma Jackson