A sea of pink could be seen at the Bangor Waterfront Sunday, and it flowed down Main Street spreading hope and brightening the overcast skies.
The more than 4,000 men, women and children participating in the 12th annual Komen Maine Race for the Cure — most wearing something pink — ran, walked or cheered from the sidelines to honor and offer encouragement to their mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts who are fighting to survive or have survived breast cancer.
Organizers said Sunday the event had already raised more than $200,000 in donations.
Other participants were at the event to honor loved ones who have died from the disease, some wearing shirts with pictures with the words “We miss you.”
Survivors wore pink T-shirts, except for two male survivors in gray, and supporters wore white, with pink lettering.
Many of the survivors, including Helena Ponco, 69, of Dexter, also were wearing pink hats with pink ribbons marking their years of survival.
“I’m a nine-year survivor,” Ponco said proudly with one of her daughters, Susan Orcutt, standing beside her.
Ponco could be seen before Sunday’s survivor ceremony hugging people as they gathered near the waterfront stage, including a Bangor firefighter standing in a group of firefighters handing out pink-printed scarfs.
“It is very inspirational,” she said. “I wouldn’t miss it. It makes you feel good because you see all these other survivors.”
Ponco brought along her friend Melinda Lundin, 59, of Milo.
“She’s a first-year survivor,” Ponco said. “We’ve been friends for 40 years.”
Orcutt, who lives in St. Albans, said the annual Race for the Cure is like a family reunion.
“It’s the same people who come every year — that’s good,” she said.
The first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was held 25 years ago in Dallas, Texas, and nowadays more than 100 races are held worldwide to support finding a cure for breast cancer.
The first Bangor race was held in 1997. Over the last 12 years the Maine Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure has raised more than $1 million for in-state treatment, screenings and education. Another $350,000 has been sent to the national Komen for the Cure Awards and Research Grant Program, which funds research to find a cure.
Of the funds sent to the national organization, $250,000 of it was returned to Maine in 2006 in the form of a grant to The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor for cancer research.
Before the 10 a.m. race-walk Sunday, several speakers took the stage to get participants keyed up, including Dr. Patricia Deisler, honorary chair of the event.
“The race won’t end until we have a cure,” she told the crowd.
After speaking, Deisler, who works out of the Biddeford office of the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine, said her agency’s goal is to provide cancer treatment to all Mainers, especially rural residents.
“Our goal as a group is to get to everyone who needs it,” she said, adding that people should not have to choose between food, heat and medical care.
Dora Winslow, a five-year survivor who served as honorary chair of the event two years ago, said turnout at the race again has reached a record level. In 2007, 3,800 participated.
“As of right now, there are more than 4,000 participants and over $200,000 [has been] raised,” she said, adding that final tallies won’t be available until later in the week because donations keep rolling in.
When it was time for survivors to be recognized, Winslow and Ponco walked to the front of the gathering and stood with over 100 other survivors in the sea of pink.