Avera Race Against Breast Cancer: then and now

May 3, 2018

This piece is presented by Avera.

Thirty years ago in 1988, “Rain Man” was No. 1 at the box office, a gallon of gas cost 91 cents, and acid-washed jeans and big hair were “in.”

It’s also the year when the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer had its beginnings.

Judy Davis, who has retired after teaching middle school in Sioux Falls for 40 years, was diagnosed in 1986 with inflammatory breast cancer. At that time, no one talked much about cancer.

“The first time I went out to speak about it, nobody showed up,” she remembers. Her sister, Peggy Kirby, and the Junior League of Sioux Falls organized the first Race Against Breast Cancer to raise awareness in her honor.

Starting in 2007, Davis was the first of 80 Pink Ladies – survivors who serve as Avera ambassadors for breast cancer awareness.

Jackie Haggar-Tuschen, director of the Avera McKennan Fitness Center, was asked in 1988 by the Junior League to lead a warm-up for the first Race, and has been doing it ever since.

The warm-up has become a favorite among Race attendees for the excitement it creates. “The purpose of the warm-up is to get everyone together to warm up their muscles before the race or walk. But it’s also to create that energy as we come together for this effort. Every year, I pick a different song that sends a message. I don’t do a lot of fancy moves because I want to make it comfortable for everyone to participate,” she said.

The Race has always included a 5K run and a 3-mile walk for people of all skill levels. A 10K run and 1.5-mile family walk were added to be even more inclusive. And this year, people are encouraged to sign up as “sideline supporters” to support the event, even if they’re not able to be there or don’t want to participate as a runner or walker.

During the early years, the Race was timed with a stopwatch and times were called out as runners finished.

“We’ve gotten pretty sophisticated with the latest technology in timing chips. We used to have all paper registrations, and now most registrations are completed online,” Haggar-Tuschen said.

The Avera Race not only serves to raise awareness and honor survivors; it’s primarily a fundraising event. In fact, $5.7 million has been raised since the event’s inception. Proceeds go toward mammography screenings for women in need, genetic testing, clinical trials, navigation services, survivorship programs, Avera’s wig salon, integrative medicine, patient education, multicultural navigation services, the cancer fitness program and more. These services benefit men and women with all types of cancer.

The 2018 Avera Race Against Breast Cancer – a special 30th anniversary event – will be May 12 at the Avera McKennan Fitness Center. There’s still time to sign up at AveraRaceSiouxFalls.org.

About  6,000 runners, walkers and supporters are expected to participate.

The day begins at 7 a.m. as the Avera Race Expo and Survivor Pavilion open. The Survivor Pavilion is open to survivors of all types of cancer and their families. A cancer survivor group photo will be taken at 7:15 a.m. There will be a song tribute to survivors at 7:40 a.m., and the traditional warm-up at 7:45 a.m.

The 10K race begins at 8 a.m., followed by the 5K at 8:15 a.m., and the 1.5-mile family walk and 3-mile walk at 8:20 a.m. Participants, volunteers, sponsors and sideline supporters are invited to a complimentary breakfast buffet after the Race.

“The Race is my special day. I love that day,” Davis said. “It is thrilling for me to stand on the stage with Jackie and look out and see what we have accomplished. Family and friends come out to celebrate the survivors and honor those who have gone before us.”

Avera Race Against Breast Cancer: then and now

It’s a big birthday for an event that has had an equally big impact. Here’s a look back at three decades for the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer.

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