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Runners take over downtown Concord for Rock ’N Race in support of cancer center

  • "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.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / 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)

  • "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.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / 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)

  • Avery Bracy, 7, watches "Rock 'N Race" participants run past his home in Concord. Concord Hospital hosted its 11th annual "Rock 'N Race" fundraiser for the Payson Center for Cancer Care in Concord; Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Avery Bracy, 7, watches "Rock 'N Race" participants run past his home in 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)

  • From left to right, Katie Martel, 9, and her sister Erin, 6, stretch while waiting with their mom Amy before the start of the Rock 'n Race in Concord on Thursday, May 16, 2013. The Martels were running with the Concord Family Medicine team. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

    From left to right, Katie Martel, 9, and her sister Erin, 6, stretch while waiting with their mom Amy before the start of the Rock 'n Race in Concord on Thursday, May 16, 2013. The Martels were running with the Concord Family Medicine team.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

  • 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. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

    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

  • Aiden Taylor, 4, holds a sign for his mother Danielle while waiting for her to cross the finish line at the Rock n' Race in Concord on Thursday, May 16, 2013. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

    Aiden Taylor, 4, holds a sign for his mother Danielle while waiting for her to cross the finish line at the Rock n' Race in Concord on Thursday, May 16, 2013.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

  • Tracy Shattuck waves at her son Steven, 11, who was crossing the finish line at a time of about 23 minutes at the Rock 'n Race on Thursday, May 16, 2013 in Concord. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

    Tracy Shattuck waves at her son Steven, 11, who was crossing the finish line at a time of about 23 minutes at the Rock 'n Race on Thursday, May 16, 2013 in Concord.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

  • Kris Payton hugs her friend and co-worker Heather Birch after crossing the finish line at the Rock 'n Race on May 16, 2013. Birch's daughter Courtney Case, 15, (not pictured) helped push Payton the whole way. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

    Kris Payton hugs her friend and co-worker Heather Birch after crossing the finish line at the Rock 'n Race on May 16, 2013. Birch's daughter Courtney Case, 15, (not pictured) helped push Payton the whole way.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

  • Michelle Tanguay and her daughter Rhiley, 10, make their way over to one of the food lines while hanging out on the State House lawn following their completion of the Rock 'n Race on May 16, 2013. The Tanguays's friends and family formed a team for the event in honor of Michelle who is fighting cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. Her last day of treatment is Friday. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

    Michelle Tanguay and her daughter Rhiley, 10, make their way over to one of the food lines while hanging out on the State House lawn following their completion of the Rock 'n Race on May 16, 2013. The Tanguays's friends and family formed a team for the event in honor of Michelle who is fighting cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. Her last day of treatment is Friday.

    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.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / 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)

  • "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.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / 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)

  • "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.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / 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)

  • "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.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / 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.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Avery Bracy, 7, watches "Rock 'N Race" participants run past his home in Concord. Concord Hospital hosted its 11th annual "Rock 'N Race" fundraiser for the Payson Center for Cancer Care in Concord; Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • From left to right, Katie Martel, 9, and her sister Erin, 6, stretch while waiting with their mom Amy before the start of the Rock 'n Race in Concord on Thursday, May 16, 2013. The Martels were running with the Concord Family Medicine team. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
  • 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. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
  • Aiden Taylor, 4, holds a sign for his mother Danielle while waiting for her to cross the finish line at the Rock n' Race in Concord on Thursday, May 16, 2013. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
  • Tracy Shattuck waves at her son Steven, 11, who was crossing the finish line at a time of about 23 minutes at the Rock 'n Race on Thursday, May 16, 2013 in Concord. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
  • Kris Payton hugs her friend and co-worker Heather Birch after crossing the finish line at the Rock 'n Race on May 16, 2013. Birch's daughter Courtney Case, 15, (not pictured) helped push Payton the whole way. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
  • Michelle Tanguay and her daughter Rhiley, 10, make their way over to one of the food lines while hanging out on the State House lawn following their completion of the Rock 'n Race on May 16, 2013. The Tanguays's friends and family formed a team for the event in honor of Michelle who is fighting cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. Her last day of treatment is Friday. <br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / 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.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / 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.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

Julie Skafidas ran for her cousin, Taylor Gauthier, who died from Ewing’s sarcoma at age 6; Donna Ames walked for her husband, Dana Ames Jr., who passed away from brain cancer; Michelle Tanguay, who is battling ovarian cancer, completed the race for herself.

The three crossed the finish line of the Rock ’N Race 5K in downtown Concord last night alongside 6,500 others, who all came to support Concord Hospital’s Payson Center for Cancer Care. It was the biggest turnout ever for the race, which has continued to grow for the past 11 years and has raised more than $2.7 million for the center since its inception. A total of the amount raised this year won’t be available for several days because many last-minute registrations need to be counted.

“It’s such a wonderful statement about community spirit here,” said Steve Duprey, a former co-chairman of the race who announced the start. “Concord, and the surrounding towns, (is) an incredibly giving and caring community.”

The race kicked off in front of the State House then looped around downtown, ending on Park Street. Food and live music awaited the tired, sweaty runners when they crossed the finish line. Antoine Gisore, 23, of Rindge, was the first to cross the finish line with a time of 15:52, while tri-athlete Amber Ferreira, 31, of Concord, was the first woman to cross with a time of 18:37. Her sister, Deidre Cullen, came in second for women.

Taylor Gauthier

But for many participants, the meaning of running or walking the course meant more than how long it took to complete. Runners represented 271 teams – from local businesses supporting a good cause to those in memory of someone who is fighting or lost the battle to cancer. One of those was Team Taylor, organized by Dan Gauthier, a Rundlett Middle School teacher, in honor of his daughter who died six years ago at age 6. He completed the course holding a giant photo of his daughter. The team is now up to about 150 people, including family members, friends and many Rundlett teachers and students.

Each of Taylor’s family members

wears a special shirt with a different photo of Taylor on the back. Skafidas, of Concord, had a photo of Taylor in a ballet skirt on the back of her T-shirt. The team tries to carry forth Taylor’s positive spirit each year.

“It just brings us all together and reminds us of the life and spirit that she always had from the very beginning to the very end,” she said.

Mike Maciel, 32, of Concord, also ran on Team Taylor. He plays basketball with Gauthier and wanted to support his friend and a great cause.

“It’s nice to keep her memory alive,” he said, and to “raise money to support cancer research so, hopefully, someday people don’t have to lose their daughters.”

Michelle Tanguay

For one participant, the race was about honoring her own fight against cancer. Michelle Tanguay, 39, of Boscawen, has been battling ovarian cancer since December. Her sixth and final chemotherapy treatment is scheduled for today.

A group of her friends completed the race wearing teal shirts, the color representing ovarian cancer. Although chemotherapy has weakened her body, Tanguay herself walked across the finish line in a teal tank top and black head scarf.

“Exhilarating,” was the word she used to describe her emotions as she prepares to enter recovery.

Ken Gilmore, of Concord, ran the race in support of Michelle. She is the personal trainer of Gilmore and his wife at her business in Boscawen. When they heard about the chance to complete the course alongside her, they knew there was only one option.

“We had to support her,” he said.

Dana Ames Jr.

A team running in memory of Dana Ames Jr. was easy to spot in their bright tie-dyed T-shirts. Ames died from brain cancer in 2007. He was treated at the Payson Center and completed the race during the last three years of his life. Now his wife, Donna, organizes a team to continue his passion and keep supporting the Payson Center.

“This was a really special cause for him, so we keep it going,” she said, wearing a pin with a picture of her husband and another of his uncle, who died from brain cancer last year. About 20 people walked for the team, including Donna and Dana’s two daughters. This year, their first grandchild, who is 2 months old, also wore a rainbow tie-dyed shirt.

The Payson Center always made her husband feel at home throughout his battle, Donna Ames said.

“The people at the Payson Center were absolutely wonderful people and never made him feel unusual. They just made him feel happy every time we went there for radiation,” she said. “They’re super people, I can’t say enough about them.”

The breezy evening provided a nice atmosphere for runners to stick around the State House lawn chatting, eating and listening to music when the race was completed. Some made their way over to memorial boards where they could write messages in honor of people affected by cancer. Some people wrote personal notes or taped up photos of their loved ones, while others just signed a name or drew something.

The mix of messages summed up the individual and collective meaning of the race and its cause.

“This is for you Dad,” read one.

“To all my friends and family,” said another.

And, summing up the power of raising money for the Payson Center, one said, “You saved my mom.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or
kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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