With glue in one hand and glitter at the ready, 11-year-old Ashley Holson paid tribute yesterday on the Mall to the grandmother who five years and one month earlier found a telltale lump in her breast.
M . . . Y. . . . Ashley began to trace gluey letters on white board. G . . . R . . . A. . . . Despite the commotion around her caused by nearly 50,000 people, she stayed focused. She dusted her effort with golden-red sparkles so it could be read easily. And from over her granddaughter's shoulder, Sharon Brzostowski of Germantown looked on and smiled happily.
My Grandmother Is A Survivor.
"We just had a big celebration," said Brzostowski.
Many proclaimed the same triumph yesterday during the 16th annual National Race for the Cure, a 5K run/walk sponsored by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Although some participants covered the distance for times and prizes, the event is far more a show of force and camaraderie -- a collective declaration that a cure must be found for a disease that strikes more than 211,000 American women annually.
The race raised $2.8 million for breast cancer screening, treatment and research, foundation officials said. At least $1 million will go to local outreach programs.
There was no mistaking the cause, not with the Mall awash in pink. Pink shirts, jackets, bandannas and boas. Pink wristbands, bags, banners and balloons. Thousands of pink carnations were handed out before the runners and walkers officially stepped off.
"A beautiful, powerful and vibrant color," one stage speaker enthused. The color symbolizing victory over the enemy.
Margaret Young-Gilmore of Southeast Washington wore the pink hat of a survivor. On a pink paper square pinned on the back of her shirt, she'd written, "One more chemo to go!" Although she is the third generation in her family to battle breast cancer, and though this is her second bout, with seven weeks of radiation still ahead, Young-Gilmore looked and sounded confident.
At 57, she has plans. When her hair started falling out because of the chemotherapy, she and husband, Walter, cut it off, then shaved her head. "I kept my braids," she said. "And when my hair starts growing back, I'll throw them away."
The crowd resembled a sorority of solidarity. Mothers had come with sisters had come with daughters had come with girlfriends (with a respectable number of husbands, brothers and sons, too).
One sign held aloft along the five kilometers identified "Bosom Buddies." Another, carried by a circle of women who have known one other since high school or college decades ago, proclaimed, "Goddesses for the Cure."
Church groups came. Co-workers banded together and turned out. A record number of teams was registered -- just shy of 1,100. Other participants were in unofficial, self-styled teams -- Team Jane Grace, named for a woman who battled her malignancy for three years until succumbing last month at 82; Team Gisella; Sally's Saints. Each had a story of hope or sadness.
Dawn Jones and her daughters, Brittany, 15, and Kendall, 11, drove from Stafford County to remember neighbor Tia Armstrong, a mother of three who died in 1999, at 41. With her name on their backs, they traversed the route with Armstrong's family.
"She was a firecracker, she was a go-getter. She was an amazing mom," Jones said.
Marian Waters of Centreville listed seven names on pink squares on her T-shirt. Four plus her own on the square labeled "In Celebration." Two names, including a grandmother's, on the square labeled "In Memory."
"Way too many names," said Waters, who at 34 learned she had the disease. That was eight years ago, and she has made sure to run every Race for the Cure in Washington since.
She even ran back in 1997, a month after surgery. "It was painful," Waters said. "But I said: If I can run it, I know I'll be okay."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.