Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure’s honorary chair marks 25th year

by Mary Helen Darah

This September Chrys Peterson will celebrate her 25th year serving as the honorary chair of the Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio Race for the Cure. Due to COVID-19, the organization cannot hold its annual race in downtown Toledo that has historically been hugely successful in raising funds and awareness. This year the Race will be held through a virtual format. Participants will register for the Race and walk and run at their leisure. They will receive a t-shirt and special perks from Race sponsors. The annual 17,000 plus person crowd, jammed with survivors, teams, supportive members of the medical community, live music and volunteers will be greatly missed by Peterson, yet she continues to race forward with determination and her well-known contagious energy and spirit in a unique way.

Instead of inspiring a gathered crowd, Peterson began walking a 5K on Sept. 1 and has committed to walking a distance of at least 5K every day until the end of the month. She is asking for donations in honor of her 25th year in hopes of raising $2,500. Many times Peterson is alone on her journey and on other days she is joined by her husband, friends, breast cancer survivors, supporters and individuals who have lost loved ones to the disease.
She is in disbelief that a quarter of a century has passed since she first emceed the event. “Twenty-five years ago the committee for the Race for the Cure here in northwest Ohio reached out to me after the first race was held,” stated Peterson. “The first race was in June of 1994. I came to be with WTOL in September of that same year. I was new at the station. The Race was new and the committee thought it would be a great community partnership. I said yes immediately because I had participated in the northeastern Pennsylvania Race before I came here. Oddly enough my colleague Rebecca Fondessy emceed the first Race here in Toledo. I went to the first one to support her and the organization. It was held at the Franklin Park Mall and at that time, it was just for women. They added men the second year in 1995 at the urging of a man who lost his wife to the disease who wanted to run in her honor.”
Over the past 25 years, Peterson can recall only one year in which weather played a factor. “We never had an event be totally rained out. We have been very fortunate,” she said. “We believe we have many angels helping us out in that department. However, one year, very early on, it just poured down rain in the morning. We were standing in the rain and my mascara was running down my face. They had to postpone the start because of lightning. An hour later it was clear and beautiful. You would think when the downpour started that people would leave or run for their cars. One woman said to me that her mom went through three rounds of chemo and if she could bravely go through treatment, she could walk in any condition in her honor. It was one of the most inspiring races for me.”
There are countless memories and special moments that she recalls through the years. “There are so many times that I have been inspired,” she stated. “I remember in the very first race that I was involved in, two ladies who were best friends in high school, found each other on Race day and they were both wearing survivor shirts. They have walked together in every race since.”
Although Peterson is sad that this year’s event must be held in a virtual format, she finds walking and visiting with survivors and supporters has been an intimate experience where she can share stories of how the disease has touched people’s lives. She hopes to be at the helm in person next year and for years to come. “I feel like the Race for the Cure has become such a huge meaningful part of my life,” she said. “I can’t imagine not being in the middle of it. Next to marrying my husband and having our daughter, my work with the Race for the Cure has been the most meaningful thing I have done in my life. I know we are saving lives in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. I anticipate a day when we don’t have to have a Race for the Cure and we can turn our attention to another cause. Someday, and I hope someday soon, we will find a cure!”
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