FERGUSON TOWNSHIP — Maybe Jodie LeMaster wasn’t born to run, but that didn’t stop her on Sunday.
LeMaster, of Tyrone, and about 24 family members and friends traveled Sunday to Tom Tudek Memorial Park to walk in the Free to Breathe State College 5K.
The inaugural run/walk, aimed at raising money and awareness for the fight against lung cancer, drew about 200 people. But the day was more about those who couldn’t be there.
For LeMaster, it was her uncle, James Corrigan, who passed away in February, just eight months after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Competing in her first run/walk, LeMaster and her teammates wore shirts emblazoned with an image of her uncle, and the words “Tramps like us ...,” a line from his favorite Bruce Springsteen song, “Born to Run.”
“He was a fighter and a warrior,” LeMaster said of Corrigan. “And we want to keep the fight going.”
That’s exactly the point of events like the one Sunday, said Nancy Gatschet, president of the Pennsylvania Lung Cancer Partnership, and herself a survivor of the disease.
“When you hear a lung cancer diagnosis, it’s really tough — because all of us here today know the odds aren’t good,” Gatschet said during a rally before the run/walk.
“When I survived, I was mad because this disease doesn’t have a voice,” she said. “All of you here today are giving this disease a voice it needs.”
The voice who coordinators credited with bringing the event to the State College area couldn’t be there Sunday to see it succeed.
It was the tireless efforts of 94-year-old Doris Myers, who three times beat cancer before succumbing to it last month, that made the run/walk a reality, coordinators said.
“She was the fiercest advocate I’ve met — not just for this cause, but for any cause,” said Stefanie Ritter, of Bellefonte, a lung cancer partnership volunteer, who worked closely with Myers. “To see that type of fire in someone her age was incredible.”
Doris Myers was 88 years old when she was first diagnosed with lung cancer, said her son Barry Myers, CEO of State College-based AccuWeather Inc.
“Some people might think that’s a difficult position to be in, but she didn’t think so, said Myers said of his mother. “I think that spirit is what carried her through a very long time.”
Doris Myers was again beating the disease when it returned a fourth time in seven years, but her body simply wore out, her son said.
Myers said his mother believed she owed the last two years of her life to the Lung Cancer Partnership, which helped her find additional treatment.
“She wanted to help pay this forward,” Myers said. “She worked every day these last few months to promote this event. She full well expected to be here.”
Ritter, who was also instrumental in planning the event, said she struggled to continue after Myers’ death on Aug. 19.
“It was really tough,” Ritter said. “I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to keep myself composed enough to carry on.”
It was when she attended a celebration of Myers’ life that Ritter realized she had to continue planning the event.
“I had so many people approach me and encourage me to carry on,” she said. “It really fueled me through it. And knowing how near and dear this was to her heart.”
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter