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Racing for hope

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By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Brooke Burr wanted to boost the spirits of Pam Versaggi, her office mate at Graham and Boles Properties in Winston-Salem.

In June 1996, during a self-exam, Versaggi had discovered a lump in one of her breasts, seen a physician the next day, undergone a modified radical mastectomy within two weeks and then received chemotherapy treatment over four months.

Now, in May 1997, Versaggi had nearly no hair and still was struggling with the fact that she had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer despite having lived a healthy life.

So Burr, who is married to U.S. Rep. Richard Burr, persuaded Versaggi to walk in the Race for the Cure in Washington, D.C., part of a network of 5K events sponsored by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Dallas.

Strolling alongside other survivors in their pink t-shirts that are the event’s signature “was pivotal in my life,” says Versaggi, now living in California. “It was hope to see all of these other women living and surviving with this disease.”

After the race, she and Burr decided to organize a Race for the Cure in the Triad.

Teaming up with Susan King, a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley, and Cindy Christopher, a broker at Meridian Realty Group, they formed a local Komen chapter.

The first Triad race, in 2000, attracted 4,600 people and netted $303,000 – one-fourth of it for the Komen Foundation for research, the rest for local groups providing breast-cancer education, screening and treatment.

Last year, the Komen Foundation gave Burr, Christopher, King and Versaggi its national volunteer-of-the-year award.

This year’s race, to be held May 4, expects to attract 5,500 participants, including 250 to 300 survivors.

One will be Versaggi, who will be running in the Triad event for the first time.

“The race is educating people so maybe one person will step up and be aware,” says Burr. “You want hope when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer.”

For information, call 336-721-0037.

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