TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio has spent 25 years raising funds and saving the lives of those diagnosed with breast cancer in our area.
The organization celebrated this amazing achievement with a gala on Saturday, honoring survivors and looking at the progress the organization has made.
"25, I can't believe it got this far after so many years," said breast cancer survivor Ann Albert.
Albert, along with other survivors and those instrumental in bringing Komen to what it is today, took time to look back while looking ahead for what's next for the organization.
"Once it's in your blood, you can't walk away," said Mary Wahl, who has been volunteering at Komen since the beginning.
The journey has been long, but the bench marks impressive; $12.5 million in breast health programs in 24 Ohio counties, as well as Monroe, Michigan.
Albert said Komen gave her the tools to beat the disease, and would recommend Komen to anyone she knew going through the same thing.
"The people who had cancer after me, I would tell them to call the Komen office and get this information. You're really going to benefit from it," said Albert.
So far, local grant dollars have impacted the lives of more than 10,000 local women. Wahl said this impact has been inspiring to see.
"It's amazing to see the number of people we're able to help in our community, and the amount of money we're able to send to nationally fund research. We've got to find a cure and we're getting closer and closer every year," said Wahl.
Donations have also totaled more than $3.5 million dollars, all going to breast cancer research.
These amazing statistics didn't just happen over night. This all started in Toledo as a grassroots effort in 1994.
The first year was just women at Franklin Park Mall, where about 600 women showed up in support. Chris Demko was one of the people leading the charge.
"It was incredible to see all the activity behind the scenes. You almost have the anticipation it's not going to come together. And then the gun goes off and the race starts and you think, 'it happened,' and it's amazing to see," Demko said.
Former WTOL anchor Chrys Peterson emcees every race, and has watched the numbers grow every year.
"You go from 600 people the first year,to 1,250 people the second year,to 2,500 the third year and it just keeps going up. It was almost doubling every year for the first four to five years, which was so exciting," Peterson said. "It's certainly an incredible experience for me to be able to take part in both every year, and to see the faces and get the hugs from people year after year who are there running for their loved ones and just running for the cause."
The 2018 Race for the Cure is September 29 and 30.
Despite these amazing achievements, there is still work to be done. A bold goal has been set to reduce breast cancer death in the U.S. by 50 percent by 2026.