The sidewalks and street between Heartland Cancer Center and St. Catherine Hospital were bustling with activity early Saturday morning for the 10th annual Leave a Legacy 10K/5K Run.
The chilly weather didn’t keep the nearly 700 runners and walkers, including children, from embarking on a 10K or 5K journey through Garden City.
Chris Pettz, 53, of Deerfield, was one of 30 people wearing orange T-shirts with a cowboy on the back declaring they were on team Ron P’s Wranglers.
“My dad’s battling cancer,” Pettz said of his father, Ron Pettz. “My daughter suggested this. The whole family tries to get together to support my dad.”
Pettz’s daughter, Jennifer Sperry, 24, of Deerfield, saw the event on Facebook and thought her grandfather would like to see the whole family get together.
“Our family is pretty active,” she said. “It’s just a good way to get everybody together.”
More than 100 signs covered the lawn in front of St. Catherine, declaring a name of a person that people were participating in honor or in memory of.
Maria Quintanar, 27, of Garden City, joined team Sarah in memory of her grandfather, Ramon Gomez, 67, of Mexico, who died this year after his battle with cancer.
“The fact that some people can survive is big,” she said. “I will remember running with an amazing team.”
Thirty-seven people formed Team Sarah in honor of Sarah Jameson, 29, of Garden City, who was diagnosed with cancer in June 2016. Jameson said she really appreciated the support and gifts the Leave a Legacy Foundation provided her throughout the year.
“When I became a patient last year, they were the first people to reach out to me,” she said. “I think it’s important to give back and help everybody who’s fighting.”
Paige Kraus, 42, of Garden City, is one of 12 founding members who started the event 10 years ago in memory of their friend, Laura Kleysteuber, who died of brain cancer at the age of 30.
“I think Laura was an amazing Christian woman who always gave back to others and lived an inspiring life,” Kraus said. “Therefore, she encouraged us to give back.”
“It’s amazing how it’s caught on,” she added. “The number of participants has increased from 300 in the early years to last year we were at 700.”
The foundation has raised more than $165,000 during the past 10 years. Part of the money was used to purchase a new digital mammography machine for St. Catherine. In recent years, the foundation has been able to give the hospital $30,000 annually to cover the membership costs to belong to the Midwest Cancer Alliance, which allows clinical trials to be performed in Garden City.
“We have no employees,” Kraus said. “All the money stays to support cancer in southwest Kansas.”
Once a month, the foundation provides gifts to cancer patients. Kraus said these gifts are called Laura’s Touches and include gift cards for groceries, restaurants and movie tickets.
“That’s one thing we do to reach cancer patients, just to let them know we are thinking and praying for them in their battle,” Kraus said.
This year, the location of the race was moved from Lee Richardson Zoo to Heartland Cancer Center. Kraus said the change of location was so they could use the beautiful facility the cancer center provided, as well as to be able to have the start and finish lines at the same place.
Mandi Deniston, 41, of Holcomb, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. She joined her sisters on Team BRCA to provide awareness for hereditary cancer. The BRCA gene is a mutation that can be passed to a person by a mother or father. It has the potential to cause melanoma, breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer.
“I knew nothing about it before I was diagnosed,” Deniston said. “I don’t think a lot of people are aware.”
Both of Deniston’s sisters, as well as her father, tested positive for the BRCA gene. Deniston’s sister, Sydnee Sassaman, 26, of Garden City, said the more you know about this type of cancer the better you are.
“When you know you have the gene, you can make smarter decisions for yourself like not to go tanning in a tanning bed,” she said.
Kraus is thankful for all of the participation that the community gives the event.
“We just thank the community who embrace this foundation,” she said. “We are humbled to be able to help people who are battling cancer.”