800 take part in 5K run/walk

TORONTO – Not even cool temperatures and cloudy skies could dim the enthusiasm of the hundreds of people who turned out on a chilly Saturday morning in Toronto to raise money for cancer patients and community causes.

“It’s amazing,” organizer George Komar said. “I can’t believe it, really, considering the weather.”

More than 800 people turned out for the third-annual Campbell-Dickinson St. Patrick 5K Run/Walk and kids race, hosted by the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization. The day’s events kicked off with a “Shave Off” to benefit the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund research aimed at finding cures for childhood cancer.

“We stopped shaving at the beginning of the year, trying to get as hairy as we can,” said Weirton resident Mike Halyk, taking part in his second “Shave Off.” He and teammates Chris Coble of Coraopolis, Johnny Hrinda of Moon Township and Matt Lewis of Toronto, raised more than $1,600 last year to claim St. Baldrick’s bragging rights.

“This year, we’re already over $2,400, the four of us together as a team,” Lewis said. “I think we’ll be over $4,700, but we won’t have the total until late tomorrow or Monday.”

Toronto resident Ron Sacripanti, one of the first in the crowd to sport the freshly shaved look, admits the St. Baldrick’s mission is near-and-dear to his heart.

“My son’s on that picture over there,” he said as a volunteer stylist ran clippers across his scalp. “He’s a leukemia survivor.”

Brothers Russ Dickinson, 5, and Nolan Dickinson, 7, said they did it for their mom, Jenny, a breast cancer survivor, “and the kids who are real sick.”

“We’re raising money for them,” Russ said.

In all, Komar said just shy of 700 people pre-registered for the races. Another 200 to 250 signed up Saturday.

“We’re probably approaching 1,000 (participants),” he said. “But it’s such a good cause, it really is.”

Proceeds from the event go to the Trinity Emergency Assistance Relief fund, which provides emergency assistance to individuals diagnosed with cancer, and the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization.

Komar said they raised more than $30,000 in the first two years of the race, “and I would say this year we’ll go over $50,000.”

He admits, though, it’s an easy sell.

“We’ve all had people in our family die of cancer,” Komar said. “My wife’s father and sister died of cancer, and my next-door neighbor. Everybody’s lost family and friends, people they work with.”

Trinity Cancer Patient Advocate Susan Miller said cancer statistics for the area bear that out. “Pretty much everybody knows somebody who’s been through this, so it’s a personal thing.” She said, adding that “100 percent of every dollar that goes into the T.E.A.R. fund” is used to help cancer patients handle emergency expenses, like medication and transportation for treatments.