In 1992, Vik Watumull’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Watumull, a Punahou graduate who now is the vice president of family business Happy Shirts, wanted to do something to help, and in 1995, he launched Hawaii’s first Race for the Cure to raise funds and awareness for the disease.
“Every woman deserves the best care in fighting breast cancer,” he says. “We hear of new breakthroughs and advances in the science of fighting breast cancer every year, but we need to keep people thinking about it until a cure is found.”
The race is an event of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a grassroots network dedicated to fighting breast cancer through research, health outreach and advocacy. For bringing the race to the Islands, Watumull will be honored at the Hawaii Affiliate of Susan G. Komen’s second annual Pink Tie Ball at 5 p.m. March 9 at The Royal Hawaiian.
What has now become one of the most recognizable race events started off small, with Watumull gathering friends and acquaintances and asking them to spread the word. The first Race for the Cure drew in nearly 800 participants – including Watumull’s mother, who had undergone treatment and survived her battle with the disease. By the event’s second year, participation doubled and it outgrew its original location at Restaurant Row. These days, it takes place at Kapiolani Park annually in October and averages about 7,000 runners and walkers. Watumull served as race chairman for eight years before stepping down.
“Since Vik started the race in Hawaii, as of April 1 this year we will have granted more than $3 million locally supporting screening, diagnosis and education,” says Susan G. Komen for the Cure-Hawaii interim director and mission coordinator Lori Garcia.
Of the money raised by the Hawaii affiliate, 75 percent remains in the state to fund local grants, breast health education, free mammograms for uninsured patients, genetic testing and more; 25 percent of funds benefit national research and education.
In addition to the event’s fundraising component, it also celebrates survivors and honors those who have passed away. One of Watumull’s favorite aspects of the race is that families and friends of survivors and patients often get involved.
“That is so important in treatment and recovery – that you have people who stand by you, and that you have people to rely on and take care of you,” Watumull says.
The Pink Tie Ball will feature a pink champagne reception, dinner, auctions, live music and dancing. Ticket prices start at $200 per person. Sponsorship tables also are available. To learn more, call 754-6659, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit komenhawaii.org.