Under cloudy skies Saturday morning, about 5,800 people stepped off in downtown Moline for the Susan G. Komen Quad-Cities Race for the Cure to raise breast cancer awareness and money for research.
Despite the gray weather, the mood was mostly upbeat as women, men and children from around the Quad-City region celebrated survivors of the disease, remembered those they have lost and encouraged those who are in the midst of treatment.
The race, now in its 26th year, has raised nearly $6 million, organizers say. But in addition to raising money, the Race for the Cure has become a special place where survivors and others say they have a chance to be with people who have shared their struggles and know what they are going through.
"It's just a feeling of family," said Eva Davison of Davenport, a 19-year survivor.
Saturday's 5-kilometer race kicked off near the iWireless Center and included a shorter 1.2-mile route.
Christina McNamara-Schimidt, a spokeswoman for the race, said that more than $200,000 was raised this year, which is about the same as last year.
More than $55,000 was raised through individual and team fundraisers, a 22 percent increase over last year, she said.
The organization says up to 75 percent of the money raised is spent in the eight counties including and around the Quad-Cities on mammograms and other breast health services. The rest goes to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for research.
Race participants were of all ages Saturday. Strollers were in plentiful supply. And so were families walking together, often in matching T-shirts bearing pictures of loved ones.
Mona Blake, 60, of Davenport, was with her 15-year-old granddaughter, Alexis, outside the breakfast served to survivors.
Blake was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 40 years old. Twenty years later, she believes she has been given a new chance at life — and the opportunity to watch her granddaughter live hers.
"I never would have gotten a chance to see her if I hadn't survived," she said.
Many of the people taking part in Saturday's race are veterans of the event. But some are new to it, too.
One of those was Margaret Wood, 92, of Bettendorf, who was diagnosed in 1969. She said surgery saved her life.
Now, she works out twice a week at the YMCA, and Diane Hill, of Bettendorf, a friend who was chosen the honorary survivor chair of this year's race, convinced her to come to Saturday's event.
"She is the most generous, caring, loving person I know. She's just a good role model for people who have gone through cancer," Hill said.
Wood said she wasn't running the race, just helping out. Her advice to others was simple: "I just think you have to stay positive."
Organizers stressed Saturday that people who are diagnosed with breast cancer are not the only ones affected. Family, friends and acquaintances all feel the impact of the disease, too.
Diane Bliss of Coal Valley said her mother and aunt both had breast cancer.
With her right knee propped up on a scooter, Bliss said she recently suffered a fractured ankle. But, she added, she was determined to attend the race anyway with Vicki Todd, of Rock Island, a longtime friend and a cancer survivor.
"I promised her I'd come, and I didn't want to let her down," Bliss said.