Avera Medical Minute: Annual event changes name to Avera Race Against Cancer

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - For the past 30 years, it's been called the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer. This year, organizers are trying to include more people. But it's a tradition that started more than thirty years ago because no one was talking about this deadly cancer.

"We maybe knew someone older, but if you were a younger person or really anyone, there was no information. There was nothing. So we saw a need at that point," Judy Davis said, who is a breast cancer survivor.

Davis inspired her sister and her friends to start the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer 31 years ago. Now, the name is changing to honor all types of cancer. Davis has been part of the race since the beginning and was instrumental in this change.

"As we began to discuss, is it time to make a change in the race? She really encouraged the women to think about how do we include all those affected by cancer?" Kris Gaster said, who is the assistant vice president for outpatient cancer services. Gaster is also the executive committee member for the Avera Race.

The reason why Davis encouraged the change is because her husband, Phil, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma four years ago. So she spent a lot of time at the Avera Prairie Center in Sioux Falls for his treatments.

"And I was struck when I'd go down to eat or when I would do something how very few of the patients that were being treated really were being treated for breast cancer," Davis said.

That's what inspired her to encourage changing the race to be against all forms of cancer.

"We really feel the need to be able to broaden our arms and really welcome in all of those different cancers," Kris said. "We've really seen a positive impact from the community as a result of this name change."

All of the funds will still stay local. But now, participants can run for those who have won the battle against any type of cancer or in honor of those who lost it.

"When I look out on the crowd on May 11th, I'll know that he's there," Davis said.

She started a team in honor of her husband called "Friends of Phil." He passed away on January 19th.

"But through the whole thing, I then became his biggest supporter and his biggest champion," Davis said. "Phil never gave up on me, and I'd like to think that I never gave up on him either."

Judy and Phil were married for 48 years. Phil will be the honorary chair person for this year's Avera Race Against Cancer.

The race is Saturday, May 11th starting at 8:00 AM at the Avera McKennan Fitness Center. The large construction project is happening at 26th Street and Southeastern Avenue, so you will need to find an alternate route if necessary. You can sign up for the race here.