Gift of Life holds pep rally for 7th annual Procter 5K

Gift of Life ‘cheerleaders’ spell out ‘victory’ during a pep rally to kick off t

One of the most popular and well-attended nonprofit events in Southeast Texas is coming in the fall, and Gift of Life started early, working to get the community fired up for it by hosting a pep rally luncheon Thursday, June 8, at Broussard’s Centré in Beaumont.

Cancer-fighting cheerleaders engaged the crowd, spelling out “victory” over the deadly disease, which Gift of Life has been helping Southeast Texas battle since 1994.

The Julie Richardson Procter 5K Ribbon Run Color Rush, which has steadily gained popularity over the years — last year’s event set a record attendance at 6,500 participants — is in its seventh year, and the non-profit is looking to attract even more people in 2017.

“This is our lucky number seven,” said Holli Peterson, Gift of Life public affairs associate. “We’ve gotten 6,500; now we want to get 7,000.”

One of the keys to breaking that record is encouraging people to form teams to walk.

“Our biggest effort … is to enlist companies, groups, and individuals to form teams,” said Norma Sampson, executive director of the Gift of Life. “It’s going to be what we hope will be a resonating voice of support for our program through the team-raising effort because that’s where I think we can have the most impactful message and enlistment. People, through their social media and through our participation page, can exponentially reach out to hundreds of friends and have them come to Beaumont and spend the night and participate in the walk.”

Gaining the support of local businesses is important as well, according to Sampson, who stressed that involving employees in nonprofit efforts is good not only for the cause but for the company as well.

“From a business perspective, for the owner, they’ve found that the more community outreach you empower your staff and your team members to participate in, it actually is a recruiting tool because the younger market — those employees — want to feel like they’re making a difference,” Sampson said. “They want to have an outreach in the community, and it’s a wonderful asset to the company to recruit new employees and even maintain employees who like to feel like they’re paying it forward and their company invests in the community. It also heightens awareness of your brand. You have an opportunity to wear your T-shirts and have your business — the name of your company — blazing on the back.”

Representatives from two businesses that are supporting the cause, H-E-B and Jason’s Deli, showed up at the pep rally to lend their support and share stories of how cancer impacted their lives.

Doreen Borel, area community coordinator for H-E-B, talked about how the company supports Gift of Life’s cause.

“I am proud to work for H-E-B,” she said. “H-E-B has a long history of commitment to the being involved in the community and supporting Gift of Life.”

Borel said the company holds a fundraiser annually that allows customers to donate to Gift of Life at the register when they pay their grocery bills.

Borel herself has experienced the impact cancer can have on a person’s life.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and colon cancer in 2011,” she said. “There were many surgeries and treatments. I considered myself a survivor, barely hanging on. … Every survivor is aware of the scars we have physically and emotionally. … Through organizations like the Gift of Life, we have support and we make friendships that last a lifetime.”

Mitchell Brown, general manager at Jason’s Deli who has worked for the company for the last 11 years, said Jason’s is very honored to be a supporter of the Gift of Life.

Sampson said the Julie Richardson Procter 5K Ribbon Run Color Rush is important not only for teambuilding and making new friends but because it raises funds for and awareness of breast, ovarian and other gynecological cancers.

“If you’ve got the knowledge, you’ll know there are certain risk aspects that are red flags and will let you know that you need to investigate and go a little farther diagnostically,” she said. “We feel like that one leg to this event is education and awareness and enhancing everyone’s knowledge so that they can have behavioral reactions that will lead to a healthier lifestyle.”

All the dollars raised for the event go back to the Southeast Texas community to provide free screenings, diagnostic tests, and biopsies for women, along with the multitude of support services that include child services, transportation and case navigation.

The 3.1-mile run is held downtown, starting at Beaumont City Hall. On-site registration begins at 6 a.m., with the run starting at 8 a.m. Registration for the event is $30. Visit golribbonrun.org to register or call (409) 833-3663.

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