25 years of Race for the Cure: Chrys Peterson’s legacy

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Where there's a Race for the Cure, there's Chrys Peterson.

You see her commanding the stage in her big pink boa every year, but it's her presence off the stage that's meant so much more to our community, to survivors and to Chrys herself.

Chrys Peterson's first race for the cure came just after she arrived at WTOL.

"I had been at the station for about four months. They just had it at Franklin Park Mall in August of 1994," she said.

A lot has changed since then. Obviously the race has exploded in size, but that huge sea of pink?

It didn't always exist.

"People didn't talk about it and that was one of the crazy things when we finally started bringing the awareness out. People were like, 'Yes, I was diagnosed 20 years ago, or i was diagnosed 15 years ago,' and I was like, 'Wait a minute, what? I didn't even know,'" she said.

"You just didn't talk about that because of the area of the body, you know, it attacks. So I think one of the things that everybody involved with Komen can be really proud about it that it's not taboo to talk about it."

"To see how many people who were affected by it really touched my heart. And then getting to know those survivors by doing stories and then seeing them back, year after year -- how inspiring, right? To be able to talk to women who have walked this journey, who are on the other side and can help others, you know, also coming back to the race year after year and missing people. You know, they're not there. Where are they? And investigating a little and finding out that they have lost their battle," is the hard part, Peterson said.

Agnes Karmol has been fighting her battle with metastatic breast cancer for seven years. She's known of Chrys Peterson since at least 2012. Little does Chrys know how much she's inspired Agnes on this one day and for all these years.

"She does not have a clue who I am. I just went up to her and said, 'Can i have my picture taken with you?' And she hugged me and she was just so happy to see me and I didn't even know her but I just felt so overwhelmed with her," Karmol said.

And, here's another life touched. Ramona Swagger also found Chrys for that warm hug at every race.

She passed away just weeks ago.

Chrys Peterson has inspired, but she's also credited with saving lives.

"Chrys has been the No. 1 advocate for breast cancer awareness in our area. And she has really become personal friends with many of our breast cancer survivors," said Mary Westphal, Komen executive director. "And it's not unusual on race day to see lines of women to give Chrys a hug and say 'I watched you every year and you've changed my life.' 'I found my breast cancer because of you. 'I got to komen because of you. and my life is better because of that.'"

You've watched Chrys' daughter, Riley grow up at the Race.

We shot this interview just before she left for college, very inspired by mom.

"To watch her take the time to have conversations with people she's never met before that i mean she doesn't know at all, it's wonderful and it warms my heart every time I see that," Riley said.

As we round out 25 years and lace up our shoes, there's one thing Chrys wants you to know.

"I know that day is coming when we are going to find a cure for breast cancer. And when that day comes, everyone in Northwestern Ohio and Southeast Michigan can say I've been a part of that because I participated in the race for the cure in Northwest Ohio. And that's gonna be a joyous day."

And you can share your race day pics with Chrys. We'll put together a slideshow for her as a special thank you for 25 years.