Race for Hope - DC: 20 Years of Progress Towards a Cure

June 9, 2017

This is a story about people who make something good out of a profoundly sad situation. This is a story about people with tenacious determination. This is a story about the Race for Hope.  

Whether we run, walk, donate, sponsor or volunteer, we come together in Washington, DC on the first Sunday in May to lift ourselves up and take action against a formidable foe – brain cancer.  We do this to raise critical funds for research so, someday, no one will have to face this deadly disease. 

In the past 20 years, we built a grassroots 5K run/walk into the largest brain tumor community event in the world, and have raised nearly $30 million for brain tumor research. But the impact of the race goes far beyond research dollars, it brings immeasurable support, hope and strength to all of us touched by brain cancer.

20th Annual Race for Hope on May 7, 2017

The race was started in a very organic, grassroots way. Co-founder, Dana Daczkowski, was 25 years old, newly married, and recently diagnosed with brain cancer.  She quickly learned that brain cancer was a disease with limited treatment options and little research funding.  As a runner herself, Dana decided that organizing a 5K run/walk would be a fun, healthy way to bring survivors and their families together for emotional support and to raise critical research dollars.  

In 1998, charity runs were a new concept. Dana was convinced that the brain tumor community needed an equivalent to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and so she contacted the Brain Tumor Society (the only brain tumor non-profit on the East Coast at the time). The organization put her in touch with Lionel & Sandy Chaiken, who lost their adult daughter, Pamela Sue, to the disease. They wanted to raise money for research and were excited about Dana's idea. The Chaiken’s positivity, kindness and dogged determination have been the guiding force for our race community for 20 years.

1998 Race for Hope First Sponsor Check from Duron PaintLionel’s favorite fundraising motto is, “If you don’t knock on the door, you won’t get an answer.” There was a lot of door knocking that first year. Duron Paints and Wallcoverings was our inaugural company sponsor.  Ben & Jerry's helped us draw a large crowd with donated ice cream at the finish line.  Close friends, co-workers and family members were responsible for every aspect of the race from promotion, to logistics, to sponsorship recruitment.  

On a cold, dreary morning in April 1998, more than 800 people came together at West Potomac Park in Washington, DC to raise $65,000 and start a movement of hope.  The co-founders intentionally decided not to name the race after Pamela Sue or Dana, as they wanted to make it a platform for everyone facing the disease. Dana’s friends and family brought her to the race in a hospital bed.  She passed away two months later on June 8, 1998. 

1998 1st Annual Race for Hope 5k Run/Walk

Fast forward 20 years to Sunday, May 7th, 2017 when more than 8,000 individuals from across the globe gathered for one purpose – to find and fund a cure for brain cancer.  This year alone, the race raised nearly $1.8 million to benefit Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2) and the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS).  

The race has made a significant impact on brain tumor research since its founding in 1998.  Click HERE for a PDF of our the race's research progress timeline over the past 20 years.

The research funding needs are more urgent than ever – there are almost 700,000 people living with a primary brain tumor diagnosis in the U.S. and within the next year, more than 210,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with a primary or metastatic brain tumor. 

At the beginning of the race, the Survivor Tribute featured more than 350 brain tumor survivors marching towards the starting line as a symbol of hope and strength in their fight against brain tumors. Many survivors were interviewed in a touching and powerful video (click HERE to view video).

Nearly 500 teams of families, friends and co-workers came out for the event. The teams brought signs and wore special t-shirts to celebrate survivors and pay tribute to those we have lost to brain cancer. Teams fuel the research dollars raised at the race, which is proved by the 15 powerhouse fundraising teams who all raised more than $20,000. 

Once again, David Cook, previous American Idol® winner and Honorary Chair of the Race for Hope – DC, brought his Team for A Cure back and raised more than $103,000. The Weekend of Hope kicked off Friday when David Cook performed for his team at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia. David and his team participate in memory of his brother Adam.  As an ABC2 Ambassador, David is a champion for the cause throughout the year.

2017 Race for Hope David Cook and Survivors

Another highlight was the Wall of Hope - a 64 foot long wall featuring the faces and stories of brain cancer survivors and those who have lost their lives to this disease. 

Wall of Hope at the 2017 Race for Hope

The Wall of Hope was created by the Roth family in memory of Jeffrey Roth. Jeffrey was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1998 and ran the race as a survivor in 1999, but sadly passed away later that year. This year, Jeffrey’s wife Rachelle along with their daughters, Jillian, Chloe and Sascha received the Rabbi Joseph Weinberg Triumph of the Spirit Award for their enduring contributions to our community.

The success of the race depends on support of our generous corporate sponsors, including race presenting sponsor, Cushman & Wakefield.“The Race for Hope DC is an extremely important cause for Cushman & Wakefield in the Washington metropolitan area,” said Roberta Liss, Regional Managing Principal, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions, Cushman & Wakefield. “Our involvement started 17 years ago when one of our legacy firms’ co-founders, Pat Cassidy, fell ill with a brain tumor. While we lost Pat in 2001, our support of this cause has been unwavering ever since. On the 20th anniversary, we are honored to serve as the presenting sponsor of the largest fundraiser for brain tumor research in the country.”  

Cushman & Wakefield's Robert Liss at the 2017 Race for Hope

And the race would not happen without our dedicated volunteer race committee and hundreds of race day volunteers.  Sporting their neon yellow shirts, more than 150 volunteers helped with set up, registration, the Survivor Tent and Tribute, the Kid's Fun Run, course marshall duties, food and beverages, bag check, clean up and so much more.

Our Volunteer Chairwoman Margaret Welsh has led this effort for 11 years. She's also the team captain of her family team, "Friends of Carol Welsh - Super Survivor," to honor her sister Carol, a 17-year brain tumor survivor. This year, Margaret passed the baton to give others a chance to step in. She was honored at the Awards Ceremony for her outstanding volunteer leadership.

Volunteer Chairwoman Margaret Welsh Honored at 2017 Race for Hope

A special commemorative 20th Anniversary slide show was presented at the race on the Jumbotron. It honors many of the local Washington DC area families, healthcare providers and companies who have helped build, organize and support the race through the years (click HERE to view slide show).

This year, the Case Foundation once again gathered their team in honor of Dan Case. In 2001, Dan Case was diagnosed with brain cancer. Discouraged by a lack of information and limited treatment options, Dan, along with his wife, Stacey, his brother Steve, and Steve’s wife Jean, founded ABC2.

Every day at ABC2, Dan inspires us. Throughout his fight with brain cancer, Dan remained determined. He was never afraid of finding new approaches or taking risks, and neither are we. 

The dollars raised at the Race help ABC2 continue its relentless search for the brain cancer breakthroughs that will lead to a cure.  We fund research that would not move forward without our involvement. We drive cutting-edge research and treatments for brain tumors and have awarded more than 100 grants totaling $20 million in brain tumor research. Since 2001, we have brought at least 30 treatments into clinical trials. 

Our team at ABC2 is grateful to partner with you on this meaningful and important event and look forward to the day when we no longer need a Race for Hope.