Fort Worth Race for the Cure to be mirrored in Afghanistan

By ALEX BRANCH | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | Published: April 3, 2013

Army Major Eric R. Peterson wanted to run the Susan G. Komen Greater Fort Worth Race for Cure but that is hard to do while deployed in Afghanistan.

So the Trophy Club native and other U.S. servicemembers will support the annual fundraiser that fights breast cancer with a 5K of their own.

Twelve hours before the Fort Worth race starts at Ridgmar Mall on Saturday morning, 145 servicemen and women will lace up their shoes to run at Camp Phoenix, a military installation outside Kabul.

The troops are calling it a "shadow run," a first for the Fort Worth affiliate.

"These runs are great for morale over here, whether it be a solider trying to stay in shape, or a group of us running for time and bragging rights," Peterson wrote in an email. "It's an hour of time that we get to be almost normal and not wear a service physical fitness uniform and be in a real t-shirt."

Komen officials said Peterson, whose mother and sister still live in North Texas, reached out to the organization in February. Komen volunteers have sent care packages of beef jerky and Girl Scout cookies to the service members, known as Team Spartans.

"We have never had anyone reach out to us like that before and our participants have gotten excited about it," said Jennifer Wersal, Komen Fort Worth assistant director. "The major is hoping to get us some footage of their run and our goal is to hopefully show it up on the jumbo screen at the race."

More than 6,650 people have registered for the race, down about 20 percent from this point last year, Wersal said. In 2012, about 10,500 people participated and the race raised more than a $1 million.

Wersal said officials weren't sure why registration was low but the race, which is usually held the second weekend in April, will occur a week early this year to avoid conflicting with the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Texas Motor Speedway.

The early date may have surprised some people, she said.

Local officials hope the organization has moved past the fundraising controversy that erupted last year after the national Komen organization decided to largely end its partnership with Planned Parenthood. The organization reversed course days later.

"I really think we have moved past that because now when we email blast or send newsletters we aren't getting the negative feedback," Wersal said.

Volunteers and survivors are working to register more participants. Debbie Stevenson, 53, owner of Ridgmar Travel in Fort Worth, underwent surgery and 38 radiation treatments after being diagnosed with stage 1a breast cancer in January 2010.

She started volunteering for Komen shortly after her treatments.

"I had no idea of the sisterhood and the way everyone with the organization just embraces you," she said.

Organizers and volunteers call participation of U.S. service members an exciting addition to this year's event. The Fort Worth affiliate posted pictures on its Facebook page of the service members opening care packages. Each service member will wear a bib and t-shirt during the race.

Peterson said he supported Komen because he believes in the organization's mission, as well as more personal reasons.

"I have two little girls," he said. "I want research done so, in the event they develop it, there could be a cure."


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