Health Care and Wellness

Panerathon Brings Hope to Cancer Survivors, Runners

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When Patti Frame, a breast cancer survivor from Atwater, arrives at Panerathon every year, she can’t help but feel hopeful as she joins thousands of people in pink at the annual fundraiser.

Panerathon reached its 10th year as the Mahoning Valley’s largest fundraising event as 11,000 gathered Sunday at the Covelli Centre in support of the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center and the Mercy Health Foundation.

Frame, who’s participated in the 10K race for eight years, was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago when she had a mammogram. 

“If you don’t find it early, sometimes it’s harder to deal with,” she said. “[Panerathon] gives you that really good feeling that there’s hope for people, and it makes you proud of yourself that you fought, you won, you’re here and you can do all of this. Then you see all of these other people doing the same thing.” 

The first time Frame came to Panerathon, she felt overwhelmed. She was not aware of how big the event was, but she was encouraged by a friend, who still runs the race with her.

“It actually was one of those teary-eyed type things,” she said. “It’s like, look at all of these people who are going through what I’m going through.” 

This year’s Panerathon raised more than $525,000, bringing the annual event’s total over the past decade to more than $3 million. Funds from the races – a two-mile walk/run and a kids’ run – go to the Mercy Health Foundation, which then uses them to ensure all who seek care at the Abdu Center can do so, regardless of their ability to pay.

In 2016, a mobile mammography unit was purchased from the money raised through Panerathon. In addition to serving people at the event, the mobile unit serves the tri-county area at about 25 sites every month, Madden said. 

“We’ve been on the road since Sept. 1 in 2016 and the numbers are astronomical,” said Susie Kovack, the driver of the mammography unit. “It varies on the location, but there’s a lot of places we go to where we’ll see 30 patients in a six-hour period.” 

The mammography unit has opened many doors for women who couldn’t make it to get their mammograms done elsewhere, Kovack said. 

“We come into their community and we can see them right in their community,” she said. “That’s a plus.”

Everyone embraces Panerathon year after year and its continued growing over the past 10 years, said Candace Madden, Panerathon coordinator and Mercy Health Foundation’s grand development specialist. 

“I think it’s truly incredible and speaks to what this community is,” she said.

A first time runner in the Panerathon this year, Judge Carla Baldwin said the race is a great cause to take part in alongside her Youngstown Municipal Court team members, a group that includes breast cancer survivors. There are survivors within the court and staff members’ attitudes about Panerathon is “they fought, so we walk.” 

“It’s great exercise and what better cause? We all know somebody who has been affected by breast cancer,” she said. “My team is always on board to see what we can do to give back.”

The community rallies together at Panerathon every year, said Ashlee Mauti, director of marketing at Covelli Enterprises. The 110 sponsors and organizations, with multiple teams from each, strive to give back to the community every year, she added. 

“It’s unbelievable to see more than 200 teams come out,” she said. “For anybody, for $20 you can be a part of something bigger.”

Some of the largest teams this year from Youngstown State University included the YSU Penguin Mega Team with 377 members and the YSU Nursing 4 A Cure Team with 180 participants. Team Sweeney had 305 members and Lets Fight the Fight Together had 208. 

“There’s a feeling of hope here whether you are a survivor or not,” Madden said. “Everyone knows someone affected by cancer and just to come show your support for maybe someone that you don’t know who is battling cancer.”

Seeing how much is being done by everyone involved with Panerathon has changed over the years, Frame said. More people and more groups came into the picture, which makes the event more exciting, she added.

“I did my chemo, radiation and my surgery, and here I am 15 years later running and having the time of my life,” she said.  

Pictured: About 11,000 took part in this year’s Panerathon fundraiser. Over the past decade, the event has raised more than $3 million for the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.