Join Panerathon and make strides to beat breast cancer

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Sandwiched between the excitement of the start of the high school football season Friday and the hoopla of the opening of the 172nd Canfield Fair coming Wednesday, the ninth annual running of the Panerathon on Sunday is in great company.

Like those and other events such as the Y-LIVE summer music festival and The Greatest Golfer of the Valley tournament, the Panerathon has earned a coveted niche in the pantheon of signature summer highlights in Greater Youngstown.

After all, in its relatively short existence, the Panerathon benefit race has catapulted to become the Mahoning Valley’s largest single fundraising event of the year. This year, it takes on added prestige as one of the select members of the RunOhio Grand Prix, comprised of the largest and highest-quality runs in the Buckeye State.

Last year, more than 11,000 people took part in the 10-kilometer/2-mile run-walk that benefits the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center in Youngstown, the only facility of its kind in our region.

In addition to good-natured friendly competition on display among racers as they wend their way through city streets and Mill Creek Park and the celebratory atmosphere among breast-cancer survivors and their supporters on vibrant display at the Covelli Centre starting gate, the Panerathon means business – serious business.


Its overarching raison d’etre is and always has been to help save lives and lower the incidence of breast cancer among women throughout the Mahoning Valley. Toward that noble goal, the successes have been many.

In its first eight years, the benefit race and related activities have raked in more than $2 million, including more than $300,000 raised in the 2017 Panerathon alone.

The race has helped fund operations at the sophisticated health center on the campus of St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital. Monies raised from Panerathon financed a state-of-the-art mobile mammography unit that has provided more than 2,000 breast exams to women throughout the tri-county area over the past two years.

Those successes that have resulted in earlier detection, earlier treatment and lives saved would have remained pipe dreams without the generous support of the Panerathon’s primary movers and shakers.

Prime among them is Warren-based Covelli Enterprises, a leading national franchisee of Panera Bread eateries. Its long-standing commitment to civic engagement in general and to the Panerathon cause in particular has attracted many similarly civic-minded sponsors.

As a result, Covelli, the Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley and other Mission Partners underwrite 100 percent of the significant costs of putting on Sunday’s massive event. That means 100 percent of all registration and sponsorship fees go directly to support the breast-care center.

Great thanks also must be extended to Dr. Rashid Abdu, acclaimed Valley surgeon and husband of the late Joanie Abdu who lost her battle against breast cancer 24 years ago.

Since then, he’s been a major force behind the establishment and growth of the center that bears his late wife’s name.

Also deserving of kudos, of course, are the tens of thousands of participants in Panerathon who have walked, dashed and run to bring triumph to the event.

Here’s hoping that the ninth annual Panerathon tomorrow shatters the already amazing participation records of past years. Although online registration has closed, those wishing to take part in the race can still do so by registering anytime from 9 a.m. to noon today at the Covelli Centre or starting at 8 a.m. at the event Sunday. Race time is 10 a.m.

Greater participation clearly translates into a more robust positive impact on our community. Unfortunately, there is much more work and many more miles to run.

In its promotional materials for Sunday’s event, Panerathon organizers report that the breast-cancer death rate in the Mahoning Valley still ranks fourth highest among communities across the nation.

In its first nine years, the Panerathon has made great strides in improving the quality of breast-care treatment in our region. But clearly, there remains a tough row to hoe in the long journey to conquer breast cancer in our nation and in our community. That’s why it’s crucial that as many selfless supporters as possible take those next critical steps tomorrow morning at Panerathon 2018.

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