Search for answers at heart of Bra Dash 5K

Kristi Blair’s vision for the second Bra Dash 5K is not too different from the first time around.

Kristi Blair’s vision for the second Bra Dash 5K is not too different from the first time around.

Blair, founder of the Maple Valley-based nonprofit Wings of Karen, said the plan for this year’s event, set for Sept. 15 at Lake Wilderness Park, is much the same as a year ago. The event raised $30,000 which was given as a grant to a scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

“We’re just building on what we had last year,” Blair said. “It was such a great success.”

Given how well last year’s Bra Dash — a 5 kilometer run or walk — Blair didn’t want to change the formula. Not only was the inaugural event able to generate so much in cash donations it drew about 800 participants. As of Aug. 14 about 1,000 signed up for this year’s event.

Still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some new elements this year.

“Part of how it has changed is the support,” Blair said. “Now that we have a year behind us all of the businesses … are backing the run.”

Sponsors such as Talking Rain, The Walking Co. and Sports Authority have offered a tremendous amount of support, Blair said.

“Everything is just bigger and better,” Blair said. “Because of the sponsors there’s some really fun things planned, booths … lots of giveaways that will make it a full event.”

A year ago participants were encouraged to wear a bra over their shirt. Many decorated the bras, wore costumes, tutus, wings and more. This year Blair hopes to see more bras hung up in the park after the event is over. For those who formed teams, one of the sponsors has planned bra wars, a tug of war with bras between teams.

“It was fantastic,” Blair said. “We had no idea when we had this idea for this run. It is exactly what we wanted it to be, with Wings of Karen, especially being a survivor, there’s a lot of sadness … but this is really a celebration. That was something I was really proud of last year is that everyone had a great time, there were a lot of laughs, a lot of smiles.”

Blair described last year’s Bra Dash as powerful particularly because of the support from the community, not just Maple Valley, but from all around it.

“That’s the theme for our participants, local heroes … because of what they’re giving back just by participating,” Blair said. “Look what these local heroes did to fund this grant.”

That grant went to a researcher focused on finding another method of early detection, Blair said, because 20 percent of women are not diagnosed by a mammogram. That tool did not diagnose her breast cancer nor did it catch her mother’s, who is the namesake of the foundation.

Blair said she would like to see twice as many participants and twice as much money raised this year. Typically the last few weeks before the race bring the most registrations, so, she won’t know if they reach that goal until days before the event. She encourages participants to fundraise but it is not a requirement. Whatever money is raised by this event, 100 percent will go toward research in the Puget Sound region.

“We have such phenomenal facilities in this area, we should support them,” Blair. “We have some of the best facilities in the world.”

She also hopes those who attend the Bra Dash year also find it inspiring in terms of getting healthy in their own lives. Blair explained there is a significant amount of research which shows that being active can help prevent breast cancer.

“You might get a handful of people who are out there for their (race) time and the run, but, for a lot of people it’s about the experience,” Blair said. “You can make of it whatever you want. It’s purely to do something active for a good cause with your buddies. We were hoping it would inspire people not only for the cause but for their own personal health.”

Blair is also excited about the new course this year which is a loop that starts in Lake Wilderness Park near the beach then heads up onto the Cedar River Trail then comes back.

“It’s really scenic which is what I wanted, I wanted to capture Lake Wilderness Park, it’s so pretty,” Blair said. “Last year it was so new, people out in the community when we came by their homes they came out and cheered even if they didn’t know.”

At this point just a few weeks out, Blair said, there are just details to take care of but the planning is wrapped up. What people can do, if they want to support the Bra Dash, is to get the word out. She cited how the Maple Valley Bears youth football team has gotten involved, invited its players to participate, wear pink football socks.

“Word of mouth is fantastic,” Blair said. “We don’t spend money on advertising because we want it all to go to the cause.”

Register by Aug. 31 to get an event T-shirt. Registration closes Sept. 10 but there will be day of event registration.

Blair said that while she is particularly passionate about breast cancer research she knows people are touched by cancer in many ways.

“When you stand in line at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance as a patient and you see the line is out the door and it’s all cancers … you realize we need to find answers,” she said.

While it’s going to be bigger and better, the Bra Dash hasn’t changed much in the past year, because it’s all about raising money to find answers.