When it comes to raising awareness for colon cancer in the annual “Undy 5000,” it doesn’t matter what the walkers wear—be it boxers, capes or costumes.
Having celebrated its eighth year on Sept. 12 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Undy 5000 is a walk/run fundraising event where runners compete against each other in their undergarments and other various apparel for the CCA, or Colon Cancer Alliance. Supporters from all over came to raise awareness, including Temple’s own SNMA-MAPS, or Student National Medical Association-Minority Association of Premedical Students.
The student organization is a pre-professional health organization established in 1964, and Temple’s chapter is dedicated to encouraging students of color to get involved in medical and scientific careers.
Elifnaz Okan, senior biology major and SNMA-MAPS’ community service chair and secretary, said the group aims to give members experience with seeing the survivors of the diseases and disorders they read about in their books. Starting with raising awareness for colon cancer, the organization plans to be a part of a different walk each month to support patients struggling with different diseases like lupus and Alzheimer’s.
For the Undy 5000, there were sponsor and information tents on the grass field next to Paine’s Park, with an inflatable colon attendees could walk through. Meanwhile, teams of underwear-clad families, friends and survivors warmed up for a 5K that meant more than just a race.
It was a day for those affected by colon cancer to come together and celebrate their surviving loved ones, while also remembering the people they’ve lost.
Alex Mateo, the husband of a colon cancer survivor, was at the Undy 5000 cheering for his wife and taking pictures of the event.
“My wife, three years ago, was diagnosed,” Mateo said. “It was something that she just wasn’t feeling right, went to the doctors and they caught it early enough.”
According to the CCA, nearly 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer each year, and the disease claimed more than 50,000 lives in the U.S. in 2014.
Speakers from the CCA at the event stressed the importance of early diagnosis being the best way to beat this deadly disease. With more runs and awareness events for colon cancer planned, the organization hopes people can start to learn the necessary knowledge to diagnose and treat their cancer early on.
Altogether, the fundraiser brought in more than $47,000 in donations according to the CCA, and a large amount of the proceeds will go to support screening navigation programs at the Abramson Cancer Center, of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. The rest will go toward national prevention, research and patient support initiatives for the CCA.
All the Temple students who were at the race to volunteer their time in the preparation and running were pre-professional health students, that in time will also meet people struggling with colon cancer.
“Most doctors and medical professionals are constantly exposed to people at their worst times in hopes that they can aid them to going back to their best,” Okan said. “However, participating in these walks lets us see all of the wonderful people who have been treated and cured, so it gives us a little glimpse of hope.”
Their next walk will be the Lupus Loop Oct. 25 which is a walk to raise money and awareness for the autoimmune disorder Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.
Henry Savage can be reached to firstname.lastname@example.org.