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Local Mother Plans 5K To End Lung Cancer

Lung cancer causes more deaths in the United States than all other cancers. In fact, lung cancer causes more deaths than the next three most common cancers combined. Though the devastating disease claims an estimated 160,000 Americans per year, there’s something we all can do to help cut this number in half.

Members of the Lake George community can help double lung cancer survival by joining the first ever Free to Breathe 5K Run/Walk in Shepard Park on Saturday, October 19.
The event will raise funds to support the National Lung Cancer Partnership, an organization dedicated to doubling lung cancer survival by 2022. Lung cancer research is incredibly underfunded in proportion to the amount of Americans it kills every year.
One of the organizers of the event is mother Elaine Winchell, who was shocked when her 32-year-old daughter passed away from lung cancer.
I had the privilege of speaking to Elaine Winchell personally about her experience and her hopes for the Free to Breathe 5K and the future.
Elaine is the mother of four daughters. Her youngest daughter was only 28 years old when she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Her daughter did not have any common risk factors for lung cancer, and did not smoke.
Unfortunately, Elaine’s daughter was one of the 10-15% of lung cancer sufferers who have never smoked. Elaine explained, “the mindset is that people that have lung cancer are smokers and that they brought the disease on themselves. The bottom line is that nobody deserves lung cancer.” 
To cope with the heartache of losing a family member to cancer, Elaine and her family sought an organization that raises awareness about lung cancer and funds research. They found the Free To Breathe campaign. Elaine said “this organization was our best bet because 100% of their funding goes to research and education.”
The organizations they chose donate the majority of their profits to cancer awareness and research, a rare occurrence in the underfunded field of lung cancer research. The National Lung Cancer Partnership’s event series, Free To Breathe, became the Winchells’ way of helping the fight against lung cancer.

With the help of friends, family, and her daughters, Elaine organized the first ever Free to Breathe 5K in New York State. With the help of local businesses and volunteers, the inaugural event will take place in Lake George on Saturday, October 19, 2013.
Of the Lake George community, Elaine said, “We’ve had tremendous support. We have everything from services donated to food and drinks. We are extremely grateful to the community.”
The event already has 210 participants and counting. This year, they hope to get at least 250 runners and walkers. “Quite a bit of money has been raised so far through businesses and donations, as well as registers,” Elaine noted. Of course, volunteers are always welcome.
Through media, word of mouth, and personal stories, Elaine hopes that people will hear about the walk, participate, and tell other people about it. She said, “Everyone is going to be touched at some point in their life by lung cancer. The more people who participate and become involved, the more others become aware and educated.”
Despite all the planning, campaigning, and fundraising, Elaine says, “If, after all of this is done, I can say I did something to improve somebody’s life dealing with lung cancer, then I’ll be happy.” Elaine possesses a cheerful yet pragmatic attitude that we all can admire.
She and her family hope that after a highly successful campaign this year, more businesses and participants will take a second look in the future. Next year, Elaine and the Free To Breathe organization hope to double participation at the Lake George event.
She added, “I really would like to thank the people of Lake George for making this happen. They have been very supportive and without them we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”
The Free to Breathe Lung Cancer 5K Lake George, NY
The run/walk will begin in Shepard Park at Canada Street.
Event Schedule

  • 9:00 a.m. – Registration & check-in
  • 10:00 a.m. – Opening rally, welcome and group photo
  • 10:30 a.m. – 5K runners/walkers start
  • 10:40 a.m. – 1-Mile walk
  • 11:30 a.m. – Closing rally, fundraising awards and prizes
The events will also be accompanied by live music throughout the morning. Please note that no pets will be allowed at the race for safety reasons.
I will be at the Free to Breathe 5K Run/Walk walking to honor my healthy, iron-willed grandfather, Larry Bekelja, who passed away just last month due to unexpected and pervasive lung cancer. Will I see you there?
Join Elaine, myself, and the other 200+ runners and walkers on Saturday, October 19 to help double lung cancer survival within the next 10 years.
Register today, donate, and spread the word.
Follow the LakeGeorge.com blog for more events and interviews with amazing people like Elaine Winchell.
All photos provided by the National Lung Cancer Partnership.