As part of our celebration of BRIGHT Run’s 15th anniversary, let’s highlight the folks who started it all.
This month, meet Kathie Ward, who worked as a Registered Nurse for 44 years before retiring in 2018. Her last 20 years of nursing were spent at the Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC) and she was a member of the breast disease site team and co-chaired the team for 10 years. Kathie is also a breast cancer survivor.
How did you become one of the BRIGHT Run founders?
Our breast patients at JCC asked why there wasn’t an event in Hamilton to raise money for research at our own cancer centre. One evening after work in March 2008, five members of the breast group sat around a table discussing an event – a walk/run – that we could have to raise money for breast cancer research for JCC.
When the first Saturday after Labour Day was decided for the event, I have to admit I was pessimistic as to how we could pull this off. We had to decide on a location, name, logo… OH MY!
We had a contest at the Cancer Centre to decide on a name. Once the name was chosen we had another contest for a logo.
What was it like trying to plan the first event?
All of us were healthcare professionals and were working fulltime. Planning an event…WOW!!!! Dundas Valley Conservation Area was booked for September 6. We planned on a 5 k walk/run on the rail trail. We hoped for 500 participants. We did not have any idea how much money we might raise. We did not have online registration. Can you even imagine that?!
How did it feel to pull off the first BRIGHT Run?
At the end of the day of our first BRIGHT Run, it was so exciting/exhilarating. I have never won a lottery but what I felt after that first event must be like a lottery win. We had no idea how much money we would raise. We hoped for $100,000 and raised $250,000- a quarter million dollars our first year!
It’s all down to volunteers. That is how we pulled off our first event and every event since!
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?
Year 15 – wow! Year 1, we aimed for year 2. I don’t think we even thought of 15 events. Our fifth event was a goal, then our 10th event. It’s not surprising that we are planning our 15th.
Do you have a favourite BRIGHT Run memory? Why?
Every year is an amazing event. I describe the event as amazing, addicting, exciting – with an electric atmosphere.
How do you explain BRIGHT Run to someone who has never heard of it?
It is not difficult to describe BRIGHT. Once people hear that every dollar raised by our participants goes to research, not overhead, our participants are eager to raise money. I’ve been told my enthusiasm is contagious!
How do you feel BRIGHT Run impacted the community in year one and now in year 15?
The number of research projects that BRIGHT has funded is amazing and 2021 was the highlight with the establishment of the BRIGHT Run Breast Cancer Learning Health System Chair, a permanent position funded through a partnership between BRIGHT and McMaster University.
How did you contribute to BRIGHT Run over the years you have been/were involved?
I have been involved with BRIGHT since 2008. My main involvement has been as event day co-chair.
Our first event, we thought our participants would all be able to park at Dundas Valley. As more participants registered, we realized we would need another parking area. I contacted St. Mark’s United Church asking if we could use their parking lot. They graciously agreed as long as they didn’t have a funeral on the Saturday morning. But how would participants get from St Marks to Dundas Valley? A volunteer’s husband shuttled participants back and forth in their van.
From 2009 to 2019, prior to COVID, we have arranged offsite parking at Dundas Valley Secondary School and Sir William Osler Elementary School and shuttle buses to bring participants to the event.
What do you hope for BRIGHT Run’s future?
More money raised for research at Hamilton’s Juravinski Cancer Centre.