BANGOR, Maine — There are numerous stories of survival, struggle and loss that brought thousands of Mainers to the Bangor Waterfront on Sunday to raise funds for breast cancer research, education and screening during the 17th annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
Gloria Cookson, 56, of Orono fought off cancer six years ago. After a mastectomy of her left breast and other treatment, it went into remission. She and her family, including her daughter, Jaci Lapointe, decided that year to participate in the race.
Lapointe and Cookson have registered in the event each year for the past five years, transforming their involvement into a family tradition.
But Lapointe, who was in the 17th annual race in Bangor on Sunday, didn’t have her mother by her side.
Cookson died two weeks ago of a heart attack, according to her daughter. Lapointe wore a pair of wings that her mother had on during past races, and she carried her mother’s teddy bear.
That teddy bear even accompanied Lapointe to an earlier “survivors’ dinner” that Cookson planned to attend before she died.
Lapointe was joined Sunday by family from as far south as Connecticut and as far north as Aroostook County, as well as some of Cookson’s former co-workers at J.C. Penney. J.C. Penney raised more than $500 for the race through donations and holding “dress-down days” for employees.
“This is what she loved. This was her thing,” Lapointe said before the start of the race.
Addyson Melrose Randall, a 3-year-old from West Bath, raised more than $600 for the event in memory of her grandmother Melanie Strout Randall of Bradford.
The little girl’s family taught her a lot about her grammy, who died in 1999 after a six-year battle with breast cancer. Despite having never met her, Addyson developed a deep connection with her, according Addyson’s mother, Ashleigh Randall, who is Melanie Strout Randall’s daughter-in-law.
To raise money to help other families, Addyson wrote a letter that her parents sent through the mail and posted to Facebook. More than $600 came in.
Addyson said her grammy is “up in the clouds,” and she talks to her whenever she hears thunder.
About 4,150 runners and walkers participated in the race this year, according to organizers. Hundreds more watched and cheered from the sidelines. Participation fell just shy of the more than 4,500 who took part in 2012.
Last year’s race brought in a total of more than $270,000 when all donations and fees were counted. There’s no total yet for this year.
On Sunday alone, the event brought in more than $30,800 in registration fees and pledges. That doesn’t include the amount raised before the race, which usually makes up the bulk of proceeds, according to organizers.
The final fundraising total won’t be known for several weeks, and people can still make donations online for up to four weeks after the race.
The top male finisher in the 5K race was Devon Plourde, 31, of Saco, with a time of 17 minutes 26 seconds, and the top female finisher was Kimberly Stark, 26, of Brooks, who posted a time of 20:47.