Hundreds turned out on a chilly Sunday morning to walk or run in a 5K race in Woodbury to support prostate cancer screenings and raise awareness of the disease.
The Blue Ribbon Run for Prostate Cancer, in its eighth year, began at 9:30 a.m. at Syosset-Woodbury Community Park. It was sponsored by the Integrated Medical Foundation, a Melville-based nonprofit.
“It’s a great community event,” said the group’s executive director, Rhonda Samuel, before the race. “We hope that we can help it grow to draw awareness to the early detection of prostate cancer.”
Samuel said about 1,000 came to the event with about 500 of them runners and walkers in the race.
John Berger, 28, a lawyer from Bellmore, won the race with a time of 16:51. Though he ran primarily because he runs about 10 races a year, Berger said the cause was important.
“It’s a good way to bring attention to prostate cancer,” Berger said. “It’s not as front and center as breast cancer is.”
Among those running were close to 20 members of the Hunt family and their friends as part of the “Fighting Irish” team. They wore white and blue T-shirts with the name “Coach Pat” emblazoned across the back in honor of Patrick Hunt Jr., who ran the race with the rest of his family.
He’s been competing in the race since 2010 after undergoing successful surgery for prostate cancer.
“They didn’t like getting up at 7:30 a.m.,” he said of his family, “but it’s fun as long as the weather is nice.”
The 10-member “Team Chas” ran and walked in honor of Charles John Orrico, who died three years ago of prostate cancer at age 72.
“It’s really a big honor to do this in his memory,” said a tearful Kristin Vahldieck, 35, a physician assistant from Woodbury, who with the rest of the team wore a shirt with her father’s initials C.J.O. This is the third year they’ve run in his memory.
Her brother, John Orrico, 37, a technology sales executive from Great Neck, said running in their father’s honor was “tough, but it’s rewarding.”
Samuel said that with 1 in 7 men getting prostate cancer in their lifetimes, awareness and testing, like the free blood test offered at the event, were important.
“Everybody knows somebody who has prostate cancer,” Samuel said.
Curtis Sliwa, a chief executive of the Guardian Angels, an anti-crime organization, urged a crowd gathered before the start of the race to push the men in their lives to get tested.
“We have to encourage our menfolk to get that blood test ... it is so vital,” said Sliwa, himself a prostate cancer survivor.
Later, Sliwa said men” think to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, they think they’re going to be eunuchs, not be able to perform as a man, and it could not be further from the truth.”
Sliwa said early detection is key.
“To do nothing means that the grim reaper might come knocking at your door,” he said.
Last year’s event drew 800 runners and walkers, and raised about $100,000 through entrance fees and corporate sponsorship, Samuel said.
The organization offers free prostate cancer screenings on Long Island and in Queens, as well as on-site at the race. The group tested about 1,000 men last year.