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Locals race for a cure, celebrate survivors



Daughter of Kim Lyon

After crossing the finish line, 8-year-old Drew Bretz paused to catch his breath and grab a much-needed drink of water.

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Daughter of Kim Lyon

After crossing the finish line, 8-year-old Drew Bretz paused to catch his breath and grab a much-needed drink of water.

Then he smiled from ear to ear as his grandparents informed him he had finished his first 5K race in 24 minutes. He was in the first group of runners to cross the finish line.

"I just wanted to race," Bretz said. "I practice running on dirt roads."

Bretz and his mother, Mollie, were among nearly 1,700 participants who signed up for the first Susan G. Komen Mid-Kansas Race for the Cure in downtown Hays Saturday morning. The event, which included the race and several other activities, is intended to raise awareness about breast cancer -- and to celebrate survivors.

The huge crowd of runners made its way down Main Street, then turned toward the Fort Hays State University campus. Some competitive runners finished the race in about 15 minutes, while others strolled at a more leisurely pace.

Inside the Hays National Guard Armory, many breast cancer survivors gathered for an early morning breakfast.

For Hays resident Denise Haynes, the reason for the run is personal. She has been in remission from breast cancer for more than a year.

"Wow," she said, taking in the spectacle around her Saturday morning. "It's pretty amazing."

Haynes teared up when discussing her struggle with the disease. Her friend, Pat Schumacher of Hays, was quick to hold her hand.

Schumacher also is a survivor, and both women belong to an Ellis County breast cancer support group.

"The support is amazing. That's what gets you through it, prayers and your sisters," Haynes said. "Now I'm really good. I wake up every morning and say 'Thank you, God.' "

Schumacher, an 11-year survivor, said the disease gave her a new desire to make the most of every day. She resigned from her teaching job to pursue a longtime dream of opening her own daycare, she said.

"It's part of my reality, but it also makes me stop and think what's really important and not to take for granted anything," Schumacher said.

Schumacher also soon will realize another dream; her son's first child is expected to be born next month.

"It's a girl," she managed to say through her tears. "It's emotional because I didn't know if I'd be around to see him get married. I did. Now I get to see and hold his child."

For Stephanie Kershner, breast cancer is an issue that hits close to home and crosses generations. Kershner, along with her son, Dash Stewart, 7, traveled from Garden City to compete in the 5K.

"My mother-in-law had breast cancer this year," Kershner said. "This was all of our first Susan G. Komen race."

Her mother-in-law, Beth Kershner, is in remission and is a breast cancer advocate in Scott City. Stephanie Kershner also had two grandmothers diagnosed with breast cancer, and one of them died of the disease.

"I wish she could see us (run)," she said.

Stephanie Kershner's mother, Terria Judge of Garden City, was in Hays Saturday to watch her family compete.

"We need to fight for this, for a cure," Judge said.