WILKES-BARRE — What was originally planned as a one-time fundraiser for kidney cancer is now shaping up to be an annual event in Wilkes-Barre.
The Renal Race will include both a one-mile fun walk and a 5k run, both starting from Public Square at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Erin Rebo Pikul, 35, of Wilkes-Barre, organized and co-founded the inaugural event last year as a way to support kidney cancer research after her husband, Frank, was diagnosed with the disease.
About 500 people turned out for an event that Rebo Pikul thought would draw a few dozen. She said she was amazed and thankful for the turnout and support the event received but didn’t envision it as an annual fundraiser. But people kept asking her about a second go-around, and the more she thought it about it “the more it made sense,” she said.
“It was a no-brainer. We had to. We started something,” Rebo Pikul said.
Last year’s event raised $20,000 for cancer research and was donated to the Kidney Cancer Association and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where Frank received cancer treatment.
Rebo Pikul said the recipients of this year’s proceeds have not been determined, only that it will be sent to organizations that promote cancer research and advocacy. She said she was also exploring keeping some of the money local.
When Frank, now 39, was diagnosed with kidney cancer on Dec. 31, 2010, the couple were not overly involved in charitable donations. If a friend or family member made a request, they would contribute, but for the most part, “we were never overly active in charitable cases,” Rebo Pikul said.
When the time came that the couple found themselves supporting a cause and touched by cancer, they were unsure just what kind of help and support they would get.
“Why would anyone help us, because we’re not out there helping anyone else,” Rebo Pikul said. But when they saw the response and support the community gave to them, they began to pay it forward.
“We’re in everything now,” Rebo Pikul said, noting that while they aren’t big on participating in the 5k runs, they do go to events and other fundraisers.
She said through the cancer and the events, she has come to appreciate how communities come together and how those that are touched by the disease, no matter where they live or whether they know you or not, will be there to lend a hand or a dollar. Participants have registered from California, Michigan and Connecticut, and she even was contacted by someone from Germany.
“This is bigger than us, bigger than cancer,” she said.