Choctaw 5-K benefits Cancer Society

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick

Melissa Dowler-Atkins, former chair for the Madison County Relay For Life, has organized the Run For Hope to benefit the American Cancer Society.

Five years ago, Melissa Dowler-Atkins took the helm of the Madison County Relay for Life. Today, her efforts continue to benefit the American Cancer Society, albeit with the start of a new event.

“Run for Hope,” a 5-K charity race, will step off April 26 and cruise through the Lake Choctaw community in London. Runners, walkers, strollers, wagons and wheelchairs are invited to follow the 3.1-mile course, which begins at Lake Choctaw Lodge and winds past the lake.

Inside the lodge, displays will feature information on American Cancer Society programs, prevention, advocacy, the annual Relay for Life event on June 13, and CPS-3 (Cancer Prevention Study), a 20-year-long project tracking trends in cancer research and prevention.

The American Cancer Society selected the Madison County relay as one of three sites across the state to serve as a host for the CPS-3. Dowler-Atkins said they hope to attract 500 participants, ages 30 to 65, who have never been diagnosed with cancer, to commit to providing information for the duration of the research. The goal is to have 500,000 people nationwide sign up for the ground-breaking study.

Details on CPS-3 will be available at the lodge during the “Run for Hope,” which Dowler-Atkins hopes will raise $5,000 in its inaugural year.

“If you can walk around a mall for an hour, you should be able to handle the race,” said Dowler-Atkins. “We have a lot of people already interested in participating. It’s all about taking care of our survivors and finding a cure.

 “This is a new challenge for me and a little out of the box, but the support from our community continues to amaze me. I was chairman of the Relay for Life for five years and we found someone new, Jess Gross, to take over. It was a nice transition and she has new ideas.”

After stepping down as chairman, Dowler-Atkins knew she wanted to stay involved in fundraising and came up with the idea for the 5-K race.

“I figured we could spin it off as a rev-up for the relay and decided to call it the ‘Run for Hope,’ ” she said. “My goal is to have 300 participate in the run. The course is through the private community with some inclines, curves and water stations.”

The courser starts and ends at the lodge, where there is plenty of parking. Strollers, wagons and wheelchairs are permitted, but inline skates, skateboards and bikes are not.

Awards will be given to the top three male and top three female finishers, and the race is organized by Premier Sports, which will post the results on their Web site,

The entry fee is $25 before April 25 and $30 the day of the race. The fee includes a t-shirt, goodie bag and refreshments at the end of the race. The entry fee is waived for children 12 and under, but a registration form is still required.

Participants can register online at the Premier Race site, download an applica-tion and mail it in, or call Dowler-Atkins for more information at 614-921-9878.

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