Despite lower turnout post-Irma, thousands attend Susan G. Komen race in downtown Miami

On Saturday morning, all of Bayfront Park downtown seemed bathed in pink.

It wasn’t just the usual rosy-fingered sunrise: Starting before dawn, throngs of breast cancer awareness supporters gathered in the park to participate in the 22nd annual Miami/Fort Lauderdale Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, wearing every shade of the color to support breast cancer awareness.

Amid balloon arches in carnation pink, groups advertised support with blush shirts or shoes striped with magenta. Others tied their heads with fluorescent pink bandanas. By mid-morning, thousands lined Biscayne Boulevard to cheer supporters and survivors who raced Saturday through the 3.1-mile course downtown.

The colors were bright but attendance numbers were muted, substantially lower due to Hurricane Irma, said executive director Sherri Martens Curtis. She estimated about 10,000 participants and 700 breast cancer survivors attended this year’s event, compared to about twice as many in years past. The race, which routinely raises close to $1,000,000, had also only raised about $250,000 so far this year, Curtis said.

“Everyone’s focus has just been on other things first” since the storm, she said. The Susan G. Komen offices had lost access to its computers and phones for a fortnight after the storm, which dented planning and preparation for much of September, the group’s busiest month for fund-raising.

Still, before the 5K race started at 10 a.m., hundreds milled about the stands set up in Bayfront Park, advertising breast cancer awareness resources and family activities. Earlier in the day, supporters had cheered a survivors’ procession of a few hundred women, some donning neon pink tutus, butterfly wings, boas and capes handed out on behalf of Sparkling Ice. Inside a survivors’ tent, where food was served and the air smelled faintly of the 1,500 pink roses that had been ordered for the event, many wore shirts whose sponsors read like a medical directory of oncology offices and hospital facilities.

The lower turnout wasn’t noticeable to Sandra Bennett, 61, who had a survivor’s pink rose on her right shoulder. She was at the race with her beagle Tyson — “like the fighter,” she said — for the seventh year since she had been diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in 2008. The first year she went to the race, Bennett remembered, she left hopeful that she could outlast the disease too.

“So many women had survived here — it gave me hope that I could,” she said. This year, survivors ranged from those less than a year out from their diagnosis to one who has lived 50 years since.

“Every year we get more survivors — that’s what we look forward to,” she said.

For Nuris Jurado, diagnosed eight years ago with Stage 2 cancer, the race was somewhere she said she had found family. A member of a dragon boat rowing team that helps raise money for breast cancer awareness, she said events like the race and the community it had connected her with had made all the difference after she was diagnosed.

“When you’re in treatment, you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

Others were there honoring women in their family who had had the disease. Rosie Ochoa, 19, handed out small bunches of pink carnations and baby’s breath to passersby on Biscayne with her family and fiancé as part of their meditation group Izunome. Her aunt Carmen died in 2012 after fighting breast cancer for five years, and her family had participated by making hundreds of small bouquets for the race ever since, she said.

“It means a lot to live in her memory and walk for her,” she said. “We make the flowers with a lot of love and we hope people receive them with that love too.”