As part of our celebration of BRIGHT Run’s 15th anniversary, let’s highlight the folks who started it all.
This month, we talked to Margaret Forbes, a nurse practitioner currently practicing in complex malignant hematology at the Juravinski Hospital. When the BRIGHT Run was created, Margaret was a registered nurse at the Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC) who worked with patients who were newly diagnosed and undergoing treatment. Over time, Margaret received further education to become a nurse practitioner, caring for people who needed ongoing follow-up care for breast cancer after treatment was completed.
How did you become one of the BRIGHT Run founders?
It was a sunny afternoon when five or six members of the Breast Team met in a boardroom at the JCC to talk about whether we could establish an event for people with breast cancer.
It would serve two purposes: (1) to give people with breast cancer a chance to walk, run or participate in an event with their friends, families and care providers to highlight the idea of living well with breast cancer, and (2) to fundraise to support local breast cancer research being conducted in the greater Hamilton area, research that would support people in our community living with breast cancer.
We were a small, enthusiastic group of physicians and nurses, with one of our nurses, Kathie Ward, who had breast cancer helping us to keep our focus on what people with breast cancer wanted.
What was it like trying to plan the first event? Ups and downs? Big problems? Great joys?
It was daunting to think about pulling off an event of this magnitude, but we had a track record of hosting other large events (i.e. the Life After Breast Cancer Conference) so we knew we could be successful. I can’t remember encountering any BIG problems. There probably were some hurdles but really it was an enjoyable process. People in our community wanted to sponsor an event like this and were willing to pitch in and help.
On a personal note, I was responsible for marketing and advertising. LOL, what did I know about such things? My experience was from that of a consumer, so I used that lens and surrounded myself with people who were experts. This is how we managed to engage BRIGHT individuals like Nancy McMillan, who understood the financial world and what consumers wanted.
She also knew things from the perspective of living with breast cancer. This was our dream. Having people with breast cancer join in this grass roots event and make it their own. Others would follow. Lee Prokaska, for example, who was loaded with experience in journalism and a huge contributor to our BR success.
Somehow our humble beginnings in advertising and marketing have morphed into seeing a dream come true: that eventually one day people in the Greater Hamilton area would say, “oh yah I know the BRIGHT Run. Yes, I have participated in that event! It’s an awesome, meaningful event for people with breast cancer that raises money for breast cancer research being done right here in Hamilton!”
How did it feel to pull off the first BRIGHT Run?
It was euphoric, yet humbling to be at that first event. The excitement in the air was tangible. Greeting walkers and runners as they came over the finish line was extremely rewarding. I could tell how much it meant to all the participants. We (the executive planning team) were pumped and astounded at the same time at the number of people who attended the event and at the amount of money raised for breast cancer research – more than $300,000!
How do you feel about the fact that BRIGHT Run is now heading towards its 15th anniversary event? Did you think it would last this long?
It is extremely rewarding to know that this event is heading into its 15th annual event. It’s a testament to the fact that people with breast cancer and their families/friends, the community, and health care providers find value and meaning in this event.
Do you have a favourite BRIGHT Run memory? Why?
How to name just one? My favourite has to be right before the run when everyone is following Anne Marie Collingwood doing the warm-up. We are all there – patients, families, friends, community members, healthcare providers – but no one knows who is who. Then a battle cry, a shout of triumph as we all surge forward after the ribbon-cutting to walk or run together. There is solidarity, a united front against breast cancer.
How do you explain BRIGHT Run to someone who has never heard of it?
It’s an annual 1-5km walk or run that supports people with breast cancer. It raises funds for ground-breaking breast cancer research being conducted here in the Hamilton area benefiting people living with breast cancer in our region and beyond.
How do you feel about BRIGHT Run’s accomplishments?
I am proud of the BRIGHT Run and what it has accomplished over the years. Definitely a grassroots movement and very heartwarming to see it continuing to have far reaching impact in the breast cancer community.
How do you feel BRIGHT Run impacted the community in year one and now in year 15?
I think the first year brought out folks who were curious and it brought out those who were committed to establishing an annual event. As part of the founding team, we were hopeful that there would be enough interest from the community to have a second, third and fourth year and beyond. And wow! We were not disappointed!
Now in its 15th year, the event has become part of the fabric of this community and something that continues to provide meaning for those who have encountered breast cancer.
How did you contribute to BRIGHT Run over the years you have been/were involved?
I was involved with the BRIGHT Run as an executive member, chairing the marketing and advertising team for the first eight years. My family and I have also volunteered on the day of the event doing whatever is required to ensure a great day!
What do you hope for BRIGHT Run’s future?
I hope the BRIGHT Run continues to provide meaning and support for people who have breast cancer and the community in the Greater Hamilton area. I am excited about the breast cancer research that has been and is being conducted. Best wishes for a BRIGHT future!