"I can’t believe it has been 10 years,” said Dr. Peter Yi, Oncologist at the Princeton Medical Group, who had been treating Run for Dad co-founder Frank Simms for prostate cancer. Despite the disease and chemotherapy, Simms still managed to win “top salesman of the year” award in his department. Dr. Yi smiled and added, “His office co-workers were wondering what drug I was giving him that caused him to perform so well. Frank will be very proud to see what he started 10 years ago to grow to be such an important event for the American Cancer Society.”

Dr. Peter Yi was one of about 700 men, women and children who came to Mercer County Park for the first Run for Dad event in 2003, which included a 5k race, a kids’ run, and a 2k walk along beautiful Mercer County Park trails and lake. Since that time Run for Dad has become a major Father’s Day morning family tradition that now also includes kids’ games, entertainment, refreshments, awards, random prize drawings, and valuable cancer information and materials. Last year attendance was up to 1,500, and this year, for its 10th anniversary, the organizers are expecting as many as 2,000 people.

The 10th annual Run for Dad will be held on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 17, at Mercer County Park in Hamilton. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.; the 5k race and 2k walk start at 8:45 a.m., followed by the kids’ run. Run for Dad also includes kids’ games, refreshments, awards, and random prize drawings. For more information and to pre-register go to www.runfordadnj.net. For more information call Lizzette Dorado at 732-951-6324 or E-mail lizzette.dorado@cancer.org.

The theme of Run for Dad’s 10th anniversary is “10 years and still running” to highlight its first decade of continuous growth and success in increasing awareness about prostate cancer and raising money to support the American Cancer Society’s research and education programs. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men and second worst killer after lung cancer. One in six men in the United States will get prostate cancer during his lifetime, but with screenings, early detection and treatment most will survive the disease.

The idea for the event first evolved 12 years ago when Frank Simms and Glenn Parker, both prostate cancer survivors, were looking for a way to educate the local population about this disease. “We heard about a woman in Albany, NY, Lisa Casey, who had created a race she called Run for Dad in memory of her father, who had died of prostate cancer,” Parker said. “We told her we wanted to do something like that in Mercer County and she was thrilled; she gave us her logo and lots of invaluable advice based on her experience. We were then fortunate enough to attract the American Cancer Society (ACS) as our partner, got a few corporate sponsors, and managed to pull it off with a super team of volunteers.”

Corporate sponsors have been important players at the event since the beginning, not only as contributors but also as information providers. Many set up tables, answer questions and share valuable health-related materials with attendees. In 2003 there were just a handful, including Novartis Oncology, Capital Health and Bristol-Myers Squibb. That original group has grown to well over two dozen including Dendreon, Horizon NJ Health, Premier Prostate Cancer Center, Princeton Healthcare System, Princeton Radiology, RWJ Hamilton Hospital, Stark & Stark, Stout’s Transportation and The Mercer County Cancer Coalition, and Thomas Edison College.

Len Kudgis of Horizon NJ Health commented, “This is such a great way to start Father’s Day. I see not only the number of participants growing but the list of sponsors gets longer every year –– this just shows that the business community recognizes that this is an important cause and they are happy to support the event.” In recent years many companies and organizations have created employee or member teams to participate in the race or walk wearing team t-shirts.

And while Run for Dad is a fun-filled family event for everybody, its core mission is to recognize prostate cancer survivors and victims, promote awareness, and raise money for the ACS, which estimates that this year there will be 241,000 cases of prostate cancer reported and 28,000 men will die from the disease.

New Jersey owns the unenviable honor of country’s third highest incidence per capita of prostate cancer. The good news is that for all men with prostate cancer, the relative five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent, and the relative 15-year survival rate is 91 percent. With education, screenings, and research, those numbers continue to improve. Over the past nine years Run for Dad has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for not only ACS prostate cancer research but also to support many local prostate cancer education programs.

Run for Dad also provides a unique way for individuals and families affected by prostate cancer to connect and find comfort. Kerri Croland, who runs with her husband and kids, recently lost her father to prostate cancer. She sent a note saying, “My dad loved to see his kids and grandkids participate in this event, and he would be so happy that we are continuing to do this. What a great way to honor our fathers –– staying fit for future generations!”

For 77 year old Burt Sutker, who is a 15-year prostate cancer survivor, Run for Dad has become especially meaningful. “Each year I run with my two sons and three of my grandsons because it is so important that we build memories together.”

In recent years, Run for Dad has reached out specifically to the African-American community to alert them of their special risk. African-American men have the highest incidence of prostate cancer in the United States, roughly 60 percent higher than white or Asian men, and are more than twice as likely to die from the disease.

Garry Keel, a member of Omega Psi Phi, one of the nation’s first African-American fraternities, says, “Our national organization mandated a Health Initiative Program encouraging positive health practices. Many of our brothers had never given any thought to prostate cancer, and this was clearly a serious potential health issue, but Run for Dad became the perfect vehicle to focus everyone on getting aware, educated, and screened. We formed a team of 20+ men for each year’s Run for Dad and are now working to spread the word to the entire African-American community.”

Bob Pollack is retired from a 45-year career working for computer hardware and software companies. He now volunteers actively with five nonprofit organizations. In 2003 he was diagnosed with Aggressive, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, which he survived after three months of chemotherapy. Dr. Peter Yi, his oncologist, was an early supporter of Run for Dad. Pollack says: “I was attracted to the event’s emphasis on family involvement, both in education about cancer and celebrating Fathers Day. Run for Dad provided me the perfect way to contribute to the overall cause of combating cancer.”

Run for Dad, Mercer County Park, Hamilton. Sunday, June 17. Register at 7:30 a.m.; race at 8:45 a.m. Visit www.runfordadnj.net, call Lizzette Dorado at 732-951-6324 or E-mail lizzette.dorado@cancer.org.

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