LITTLE ROCK Thousands of participants and supporters gathered downtown Saturday for the Komen Race for the Cure, the annual 5K that honors breast cancer survivors, pays tribute to patients who have died from the disease and raises money toward research and treatment.
The Little Rock event is one of about 120 Komen races around the country with a combined total of more than 1 million participants this year. In Arkansas, where 75 percent of the money raised at the local event will remain, more than 40,000 racers walked or ran the Little Rock course with thousands more supporters cheering them on.
Race co-chair Mike Gavigan called the atmosphere "electric" as runners, walkers and supporters streamed in to the downtown starting line. Many of the racers dressed in celebratory pink costumes or wore shirts that featured the names and images of loved ones who battled breast cancer.
"It really means a lot to me," said Gavigan, who lost his mother and grandmother to breast cancer. "The stat is one in eight women will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. So everybody knows somebody."
Faith Cleveland, of Hot Springs, said she raised money and walked to honor her mother, her aunt and a good friend who all have died from the disease.
"When you get out there and you start walking across that bridge and you see that sea of women in pink, an emotion comes over you," Cleveland said, tears in her eyes. "It'll make me cry just thinking about. It's overwhelming. It really is just how many people come out to support this."
Beebe resident Lyndi Whitlock walked alongside family members including her mother, a 20-year breast cancer survivor. They all dressed up in matching pink outfits with colorful boas. Whitlock even wore feathery pink eyelashes.
"The first couple times you cry like crazy, but then it gets a little better," she said, standing by her mother, Martha Whitlock. "It's still emotional but it's nice to see everybody come together for something."
The race started at 2nd and Broadway streets in Little Rock with runners and walkers heading across the Broadway Bridge into downtown North Little Rock and coming back across the Main Street bridge. The finish line is on Capitol Avenue near Gaines Street.