Durham County

Annual ‘Angels Among Us’ 5k raises $2.1M for Duke’s Tisch Brain Tumor Center

Brain cancer survivors Jake Ingham (left) and Brodie Curtis display their fighting spirit during Saturday’s ‘Angels Among Us’ event at Duke.
Brain cancer survivors Jake Ingham (left) and Brodie Curtis display their fighting spirit during Saturday’s ‘Angels Among Us’ event at Duke. The Herald-Sun

The annual Angels Among Us 5k and family fun walk raised a little more than $2.1 million on Saturday for the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at the Duke Cancer Institute — pushing the total amount of money raised from the event in its history above $22 million.

This was the 24th time the event has been held in Durham, and around 4,000 people attended the festivities on Duke University’s Central Campus, which included a 5k run, a family walk in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and live music.

Started in 1994 and originally known as the Duke Forest 5k, the event has grown significantly since its early days. Event coordinator Mary Woodall has been working with Angels Among Us since the first year it began and has helped foster the annual run’s growth.

“The first year we raised $27,000 and there were a few hundred people,” she said. “Now it is up to 4,000 people.”

The $2.1 million raised this year is the most Angels Among Us has ever raised in a single year, according to Woodall.

She said the growth of the event is important because brain cancer awareness doesn’t have the same recognition as other cancereous diseases such as breast cancer, which has raised billions of dollars through organizations such as the Susan G. Komen foundation.

Brain cancer awareness events “are rare,” Woodall said.

Woodall, like many of the teams and runners in attendance became involved with the annual event to honor or support a loved one that has been affected by brain cancer.

She came to the first ever Angels Among Us because her son was diagnosed with brain tumor.

“I am carrying on my son’s fight against brain tumors and I am leaving a legacy for him,” she said.

Beth Barnes traveled to Durham on Saturday from Virginia Beach, Virginia to honor her sister Katie, who died last year after receiving treatments at Duke. She, along with several friends and family, organized a team to raise money for the cause. The team held us signs and wore shirts that read “Brains are the new Boobs.”

Barnes was inspired to do make the “Brains are the new Boobs” slogan because of the success breast cancer awareness has done with slogans like “Save the Ta-Tas.” Barnes said she was selling “Brains are the new Boobs” shirts and donating all of the proceeds to the Brain Tumor Center.

“This is the first time we’ve made it out to the race ... and it’s been great (to run in her honor),” she said.

The donations are an important gift to Duke’s Brain Tumor Center because they are unrestricted, meaning the money can be used to fund whatever research needs are desired. Often, donations are tied to grants and can only be used in very specfic ways.

Rosemary Ketring, a nurse clinician at the Brain Tumor Center, said the center “really counts on this making a huge donation” and that the funds raised at the event has been climbing every year.

“I’ve seen so much happen (at the Brain Tumor Center) because of the event. The proceeds really help with research,” she said.

But beyond raising money the event also provides an important outlet for both cancer patients, their families and the professionals working with them.

“This also brings camaraderie, and it’s also networking for staff and patients and families,” Ketring said.

“This event is not only for research, but it’s also for survival. (Patients) come here and they see 20-year survivors and 10-year survivors and it gives them hope.”

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes