Thousands to participate in annual Rock ‘N Race fundraiser for cancer center
Dan Gauthier, center, carries a large photograph of his daughter Taylor while running the Rock 'n Race on Thursday, May 17, 2013. Taylor passed away six years ago because of Ewing Sarcoma, a swift moving cancer, and Dan has been running the race, carrying her photo, ever since.
ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
Steph Riley and her husband Shawn chat while sitting for a portrait at St. Peter's Church in Concord on Tuesday afternoon, May 13, 2014 where they were handing out their team "Steph Strong" shirts and bibs for Thursday's Rock n' Race.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
"Rock 'N Race" participants run down Main Street in downtown Concord. Concord Hospital hosted its 11th annual "Rock 'N Race" fundraiser for the Payson Center for Cancer Care in Concord; Thursday, May 16, 2013.
(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
The standard T-shirts and race bibs were waiting, packed into cardboard boxes in St. Peter’s Church in Concord yesterday afternoon.
Leslie Benoit of Colebrook will wear that gear tomorrow when she walks with her team, Leslie’s Bosom Buddies, in the Rock ’N Race 5K.
She’ll jazz up the uniform a bit, too.
“You won’t be able to miss us,” said Benoit, 57. “We have pink feather boas, pink bandannas. Every year, I’m adding pink.”
This year’s addition will be pink sparkly headbands, one more bright accessory to fly in the face of the breast cancer she beat five years ago. Her team, which includes several other cancer survivors, will join more than 6,000 participants in the annual event to benefit Concord Hospital’s Payson Center for Cancer Care.
“All the money that is raised is going to anyone that needs it for cancer, whether it be a hot meal or a ride to radiation. . . . That’s what makes me want to go every year and try to get as many people as we can to donate or to walk or to race or to do all three,” Benoit said.
Benoit has been walking in the Rock ’N Race for several years, and this time, her team of 12 has raised more than $4,600. Her daughter raised more than $3,000 of that total.
“The feeling you get when you’re doing this – the camaraderie of it all – is overwhelming,” Benoit said.
Since the inaugural race in 2003, Concord Hospital events manager Sharon Sweet said it has raised more than $3.2 million for the Payson Center. That number doesn’t include money raised so far this year.
“It’s high-energy,” Sweet said of the annual 5K. “Even though people have worked hard to raise money for the Payson Center for Cancer Care, the mood is very elevated, very upbeat.”
Even as the race continues to grow, Sweet said some fundraisers return to this cause year after year. For example, there’s Amy McKean of Amy’s Advocates, the team leading the fundraising board with nearly $14,000.
“She’s a fierce, fierce fundraiser,” Sweet said of McKean.
And there’s Shawn Riley, part of his wife’s team, which is called Steph Strong.
“He’s like a house afire trying to raise money for Payson Center,” Sweet said.
Shawn Riley is actually a deputy fire chief at the Laconia Fire Department, and his wife, Steph, is an occupational nurse for the Air National Guard. She’s also a patient at the Payson Center.
“That money is going to help people battling cancer,” said Shawn Riley, 45. “It’s not the building on the hill anymore. . . . Seeing the pain that’s associated with cancer, it feels like it’s a lot more important when it touches you.”
Steph Riley, 47, has walked in the Rock ’N Race cancer-free for the past six years. Since last year, she discovered a precursor to cancer in her left breast, underwent a double mastectomy last fall and then was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in March.
So when the couple picked up their race packets yesterday at St. Peter’s Church, they also picked up two cardboard boxes of those T-shirts and bibs.
“Everything became a lot more real,” Shawn Riley said. “This was a way for her to take a little bit of control and do something positive out of what is really not a pleasant experience.”
Steph Riley started her team thinking she would get a few family members on board. She set her own fundraising goal at $150.
“I’m thinking, I have a big family, I can get 10,” she said. Two days before the race, 132 people have committed to run or walk through Concord tomorrow with team Steph Strong. She’s raised almost $2,000, and her husband has collected nearly $2,300.
Like Benoit, the Rileys said they were shocked by the support that has come their way through the Rock ’N Race.
“I was like, ‘Holy crap,’ ” Shawn Riley said with a laugh.
They picked up their boxes yesterday in uniforms, she in Air National Guard gear and he in a blue Laconia Fire Department polo. He donned a Rock ’N Race cap from the box, and she wore a pink plastic bracelet that said Steph Strong.
“I don’t dwell on the lung cancer,” she said, her voice firm.
She doesn’t dwell on the lung cancer, but her story will carry their team through tomorrow’s event.
“I don’t think it’s going to be harder,” Shawn Riley said of this year’s race. “I think it’s going to be more purposed.”
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)
AT A GLANCE:
Online registration for the Rock ’N Race is closed, but paper registration forms can be turned in from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today at St. Peter’s Parish at 132 N. State St. in Concord, or at the State House plaza before the race.
The 12th annual Rock ’N Race starts at 6 p.m. tomorrow.