Annual Moffitt race raises research funds

When Karen Dalton, wife of H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center CEO William Dalton, founded the first Miles for Moffitt race it was on behalf of a friend who was a cancer survivor. Yet six years later, her participation in this year’s race was in honor of her sister-in-law, who was diagnosed with cancer this year.

“They say cancer touches everyone, and it certainly does,” Dalton said. “Until this year, I personally didn’t have any family members touched by it, but we do now, unfortunately.”

The sixth-annual Miles for Moffitt race, which held five mile and five-kilometer races around the USF campus on Saturday, attracted participants from all over the country and raised research funds for Moffitt. Dalton said the event was intended to allow all participants to leave with hope.

“When we started this race, the purpose of it was to bring awareness to the community about cancer research being done here in Tampa and to raise money for the research,” she said. “We want the survivors to feel the strength in number and to feel the hope that the research going on in Moffitt will one day eradicate this disease.”

Dalton said the race was created in 2006 while she was a USF student. Her friend Sarita Charlton, a cancer survivor, approached her looking for a way to give back to Moffitt.

“(Charlton) came to me and said, ‘I want to participate in something Moffitt is doing in the community and thank them for saving my life. What can I do?” Dalton said. “At that time, there was nothing the community could participate in, so we decided to have this race, sort of over a cup of coffee.”

Dalton said Charlton, who is still on the board of directors for the non-profit organization that oversees Miles for Moffitt, helped organized the first race in 2006. That first race generated $55,000 for cancer research, and Miles for Moffitt has since donated $555,000.

Saturday’s race, which was funded by the Florida Bank and other patrons, brought in $150,000 from about 200 participating teams. Participants paid a $25 registration fee, which was donated to Moffitt.

Some teams use the event as a family reunion to commemorate a family member they lost to cancer, Dalton said, such as Miles for Mike, which has been involved since the first race. Other teams, such as Kilometers for Kevin, participate to encourage those currently fighting the disease.

Jessica Muffs participated in the event to show support for her neighbor and family friend Kevin McQuade who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

“I don’t really like running,” Muffs said, “but it’s the little things you can do. The awareness that is raised from this event makes it worth it.”

McQuade, who ran with his team in the five-kilometer race, said it gave him a lot of “hope.”

“To see that all these people care is wonderful,” he said.

Others, like Shirley Hunziker, ran by themselves.

Hunziker started chemotherapy three weeks after participating in last year’s five-kilometer run, when she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. This year, she runs as a survivor.

“(Running in the race) proves I’ve beat it,” she said. “This race is a celebration of life. It’s victory.”