"When people get excited, it's really fun to dress up in pink and paint your dog pink and paint your hair and everything else," said Kate Moss, Komen Utah executive director, "but the real reason we do this are the breast cancer survivors."
About 300 breast cancer survivors participated in the city's 21st annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Moss said, and this year, event organizers held the survivor parade at the beginning of the race "to emphasize why we really do this."
Elaine Berger, who was diagnosed with breast cancer 53 years ago and has participated in Komen Utah events every year, led the way for runners while riding in the pace car. Emma Houston, who was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer 12 years ago, danced on stage and energized the crowd with her enthusiasm before the race began.
Houston's grandmother, mother and 37-year-old daughter also have been diagnosed with breast cancer, she said, which makes the cause that much more personal.
"When we talk about finding the cure for this disease and the money that we raise for research, it goes to extend the lives of family members," Houston said, expressing her gratitude for the efforts of those at the race.
About 3,000 people registered for the event, organizers said, and were given the option to participate in a mile race, a 5K or both.
Kaci Walker was racing in memory of her best friend, who died from breast cancer three years ago at age 32.
"I used to think that it was something that old women got, like you'd live a full life and then you got breast cancer," Walker said, "but she was diagnosed at the age of 30. It could happen to anybody."
Statistics estimate that one in eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer. Men also can get breast cancer, though the risk for them is not as high.
"If you think about all the women that you know, the chances that one of the women in your life is going to get breast cancer, it's really high," she said.
Walker said she was glad to see all the participants at the event, "especially men supporting the women in their lives."
Mark Conklin's mother is a breast cancer survivor, he said, and he and his band The Mondays played at the event to support the cause.
The Komen foundation is meant to support breast health programs, Moss said. "Our focus is to make sure we have timely coverage for breast cancer survivors, regardless of their ability to pay."
As of early Saturday morning, the organization had raised about $219,000 through participants and sponsors, Moss said, and will continue accepting donations through the end of May. Its fundraising goal is $351,000. Visit utah.info-komen.org for more information.