Whitehorse Steps Up For Run For Mom

Every year in October, Annaka Sarek decorates the medical imaging area of Whitehorse General Hospital (WGH) in a pink motif to raise the profile of breast health issues in the territory.

She’s passionate about her work and revels in being recognized around town as the “boob lady”.

“Someone on the street recognized me and told me, ‘You are so amazing. You told me [during my mammogram] that even a bad outcome is a good outcome. And you were right,” Sarek says. “It’s a cause that means a lot to me because if you can catch it, you can cure it.”

She’s the medical imaging specialist at WGH, as well as a committee member of Run For Mom, and she knows how many lives mammography equipment has saved in Whitehorse. 1 in 8 people are diagnosed with breast cancer and, each year, over 20 people in the territory are diagnosed with the illness.

“I always tell people that this is a speed bump … not a roadblock,” says Sarek about a positive screening. “If it’s caught early, that’s huge in terms of survival.”

Run for Mom has helped purchase mammography machines for the hospital and has an eye on helping WGH purchase equipment again in 2020. The new equipment will allow 3D imaging of breast tissue which will help those with dense breast tissue locate tumours more easily. With all of her medical imaging experience, Sarek knows how important this upgrade will be for the community.

Run for Mom have also furnished the mammography suite to allow for a more comfortable environment and have been a benefactor of many breast health and awareness campaigns in the territory.

Val Pike, a committee member – and also the president at Run for Mom – has been there since the beginning.

A group of women from the communities approached her to get her help to start a run to benefit the community. A large corporation was sponsoring and, though the event was during a colder season in the Yukon, they worked hard to try to help others in need. At the end of the process though, most of the money went down south and very little of it stayed in the territory.

The volunteers were crestfallen and vowed not to let that happen again. They started their own organization and decided that warmer weather was needed for any outdoor event in the Yukon. To date, they’ve raised over a million dollars and all of that money has stayed in the territory.

When asked why she still keeps volunteering after all of these years, Pike says it’s because the community embraces Run for Mom and that continued warmth and dedication continues to inspire her.

“Every year when the event is about to start, you can see all of the people in the park,” says Pike. “I still get goosebumps when the announcer starts the countdown and then you see this mass of people start to run.”

It’s a spectacle that many Yukoners have grown accustomed to. The Run For Mom event often draws over a thousand participants and the community has really embraced the organization.

“The money is great … but to me it’s all about the community,” Pike says. “We get to see multi-generational participants and we’ve done remarkable things.”

Air North, Yukon’s Airline has always had a hand in helping with those remarkable things. Whether it’s a round-trip flight, donation or a partnership, they’ve always been willing to get involved in community initiatives.

“Air North has a deep-rooted commitment to community and health,” says Deborah Ryan, Air North’s Manager of Strategic Partnerships and Alliances. “Our involvement with Run For Mom is especially important to us and we love to see the grandparents, parents, children and grandparents out on Mother’s Day each year.”

This year, a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake flavour was created by Air North Flight Kitchen Chef Michael Bock and sold for a limited time in early 2019. They were available in Wykes’ Your Independent Grocer and at the Run for Mom race. Wykes’ and Air North each donated $XXX to Run for Mom as a result of the cheesecake sales and it kept the organization top of mind leading up to the race.

“Partnerships like these mean that breast health was in people’s minds just a little bit longer,” says Sarek. “If it’s front and centre just awhile longer and we can save more lives … all the better.”

There are plans to offer a special Run for Mom cheesecake flavour again in 2020, though the Air North Flight Kitchen is mum on next year’s flavour.

Inside Air North

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