Sweat endeavor combines colors, causes, celebrations and All That Jazz

Lace up to save lives. The Julie Rogers’ “Gift of Life” will host an inaugural 5K Run/Walk Saturday, Oct. 1, in downtown Beaumont to increase awareness of two cancers that affect hundreds of Southeast Texans each year and to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

For 17 years the “Gift of Life” has been the leading proponent of breast cancer awareness in Southeast Texas, providing free diagnostic tests and access to treatment for those medically underserved in the area.

Traditionally each October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the organization has hosted a month-long campaign to convey the importance of mammograms, early detection and treatment options for breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in women.

“The Gift of Life promotes Breast Cancer Awareness Month every year to remind women that if they don’t take care of themselves, they can’t take care of their families,” said Charlotte Mains, breast cancer survivor and nurse. “In fact, you’re really not taking care of your family if you don’t take care of yourself. We women need to think about what will happen to our families if something happens to us.”

This year the “Gift of Life” continues the effort of promoting breast wellness with its annual “Putting on the Pink” event, but to its cause and symbolic pink color it adds the color turquoise, signifying the launch of an endeavor to communicate the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer will affect more than 25,000 women this year, and more than half of those will lose their lives.

One life lost to ovarian cancer, the deadliest of all gynecological cancers, was Julie Richardson Procter, for whom the Ribbon Run/Walk has been named.

Procter was a Southeast Texas lawyer, “Gift of Life” board member and volunteer who lost her battle with ovarian cancer in April 2011. Her husband, Beau, has honored Julie with a generous educational awareness grant that also served as the impetus to start a run and further advance monitoring for the vague and nearly silent symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Julie’s symptoms were typical – bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, frequent or urgent need to urinate and difficulty eating or feeling full quick. In Julie’s case, as in many cases with the disease, the indistinct symptoms led to detection in an advanced stage.

Through the Julie Richardson Procter 5K Ribbon Run/Walk, hosted by Casa Olé and HEB, the “Gift of Life” hopes to shed light on the symptoms as well as the importance of becoming a self advocate for personal health.

“We really just want everyone to come out for this event and for women to put themselves first and their health first,” said Mains, co-chair of the event. “Actions speak louder than words, so get healthy and set an example for your entire family.”

The two hues – pink and turquoise – will come together at City Hall for an 8 a.m. start for those stepping out for the first annual Julie Richardson Procter 5K Ribbon Run/Walk. The cost is $25 for pre-race day registration and $30 on the day of the event. Students can participate for $5.

Everyone is invited – men, women and children and especially cancer survivors, who are celebrated on this day and not charged for their involvement.

“We treat survivors because we want them to be with others who have been through what they have,” said Mains. “When you find out you have any cancer – breast cancer or any other – you feel alone. Yes, everyone wants to help but I remember feeling it’s my body reacting against me making abnormal cells. And I felt very alone. This event brings those people who have felt or are feeling that way together.”

Striders stepping out for this stroll, or sprint, will contribute to the “Gift of Life’s” significant statistics. Since the organization’s inception, it has funded 19,000 free mammograms and 6,000 free prostate screenings, extending the lives of more than 170 individuals in Southeast Texas by early diagnosis and access to treatment. Already this year, through the “Gift of Life’s” early detection program, six women have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“During the seventeen years since our formation, we have been extremely blessed to have the tremendous support of the community, medical partners and volunteers, who have donated time and resources to ensure women and men throughout the region have access to these lifesaving services,” said Regina Rogers, “Gift of Life” founder and chair. “When an individual is diagnosed with cancer through a ‘Gift of Life’ screening, they become a part of our family. We do everything we can to surround them with love and care, while navigating them into treatment.”After the sweat endeavor everyone, is invited to a Pink Party on the Plaza — Jackson Square, New Orleans style — back at City Hall. Donning runner chic, crowds will converge for a time of intergenerational entertainment and celebrity-filled celebration – All That Jazz. Kids can get their faces painted while parents get massages and fill up on coffee and beignets. There will be sidewalk artists and fortunetellers.

Breast cancer awareness activist, survivor and speaker extraordinaire Kathy LaTour, author of “The Breast Cancer Companion” and contributor to “Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul,” will present an inspiring speech on survivorship. Following LaTour, Houston’s supreme entertainer and singer Yvonne Washington and her band “The Mix” will jazz the audience with their dynamic sounds of rhythm and blues and lead a Survivors’ Promenade of Courage.

This powerful purposeful day culminates with a Celebration of Survivorship and Hope and luncheon in the Beaumont Civic Center at 11:30 a.m. with nationally renowned vocalist and performer Tony Orlando. He will enthrall the audience with his Las Vegas-style show and exhilarating energy. Orlando is one of America’s best-loved personalities, a recipient of three American Music Awards and a People’s Choice Award. His unforgettable timeless musical hits include “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ’Round The Ole Oak Tree” and “Knock Three Times.”

“We hope he’ll change the words to tie a pink ribbon round the ol’ pine tree, but we can’t be certain,” said Mains. “We do expect him to be very engaging and very exciting.”

Whether Orlando sings “tie a yellow ribbon round the ole oak tree” or changes the words to “pink” and “pine,” it won’t matter because all of Southeast Texas, oak and pine trees included, will be tied with pink ribbons. Sept. 29 and 30, the “Gift of Life” Tie the Town Pink Committee will affix pink ribbons and bows on lampposts, telephone poles, signs, storefronts, benches and doors all over the area to constantly remind citizens that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

During the month, several big endeavors will seek to educate and raise funds for continuing efforts to save lives through early detection and treatment.

The “Gift of Life” will host a media day Oct. 21, which is National Mammography Day. The day will be devoted to discussing the signs, symptoms and importance of self-awareness and monthly self examines.

Also during October, Bra-VO! Applause for the Cause launches for the second year and promises to be another uplifting experience to encourage early cancer detection.

Since late August, breast cancer survivors in Southeast Texas have been diligently working to create artistic masterpieces from bras. The bras will go on display Oct. 1 at the Beaumont Civic Center lobby at 11 a.m. and then be moved to the Art Museum of Southeast Texas from Oct. 3- 31.

The month will conclude with a 14-day shopping/fundraising effort. The “Gift of Life” is selling Pink Shopping Cards for $50. These cards entitle holders to a 10 percent discount at more than 600 area merchants. For 10 shopping days, Oct. 27 – Nov. 7, the Pink Card provides primo shopping options especially for those who want to get a head start on holiday gift purchases.

Everyone is invited to participate in the Ribbon Run, All That Jazz after the run and/or the luncheon with Tony Orlando, which is priced separately from the Ribbon Run.

For more information about the Julie Rogers’ “Gift of Life” Program or the Julie Richardson Procter 5K Ribbon Run/Walk, All That Jazz and luncheon with Tony Orlando, call the “Gift of Life” at (409) 833-3663 or visit the Web site at www.giftoflifebmt.org.