They came bare-chested in pink tutus — three Ferguson Senior High boys, that is.
Others wore pink butterfly wings on their backs and pink baseball caps and crowns on their heads. They carried images of loved ones on their shirts, on posters and festooned on balloons.
They danced, they cried, and they celebrated crossing the finish line at the 20th anniversary of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Miami/Fort Lauderdale, the annual 5K that brings tens of thousands of runners and walkers to downtown Miami in the early morning hours. The race, held Saturday, raises funds for breast cancer research. This year’s goal is $2 million; since its inception 20 years ago, the race has raised $14 million, race organizers said.
Before the race, more than 1,200 breast cancer survivors were honored with pink-and-white roses in a poignant ceremony.
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This race is so important to me because it means life. I have a reason to live, my son.
Lourdes Perez, 41, of Miami, breast cancer survivor
Lourdes Perez, 41, of Miami has been a survivor for six years. She said she was diagnosed in 2009 when she was 12 weeks pregnant. She underwent chemotherapy while pregnant.
“My baby boy was in my tummy,” Perez said, with tears streaming down her face. “This race is so important to me because it means life. I have a reason to live, my son.”
Perez was joined by her friend of many decades, Gisela Rodriguez, 44, who endured a similar journey. Rodriguez said she, too, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was pregnant 19 years ago. Like Perez, she has been a survivor for six years.
“I survived ovarian cancer, breast cancer and a recent stroke,’’ said Rodriguez. “I have a purpose — I know I do. If not, I wouldn't be here today,” Rodriguez said, pointing to her 19-year-old daughter.
Jorge Delmont, 68, wearing a black cowboy hat and white T-shirt adorned with pink glitter, was touched by the survivor ceremony.
“How can you not cry here? You have to have a stone heart not to,’’ he said. “I’m crying like a baby. This is what life is about.”
The messages were powerful. On one float from the Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida, women in white T-shirts carried pink posters with a one-word missive printed in white block letters: “Optimistic.’’ “Fighter.’’ “Rock Star.’’ “Strong.’’ “Beautiful.’’
“Pink ain’t just decoration; pink is for empowerment. It turns a disease of deadly silence into a voice for women,” Felicia Knaul, representing the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami, told the crowd. Knaul, the wife of new University of Miami president Julio Frenk, is a breast cancer survivor and the founder of Cáncer de Mama: Tómatelo a Pecho, a nonprofit focused on educating women in Latin America about breast cancer.
One woman, Adriana Araujo, 41, vowed to cut a strand of her hair for every $10 in donations. This is her fifth time since 2007 that she went home bald, raising more than $1,600 for breast cancer research in honor of a friend who died in 2006.
“These ladies over here have no choice but to lose their hair,” Araujo said. “I choose to lose my hair for the cause.”
The mood was celebratory, with co-workers linked arm in arm, running and walking in solidarity. Families young and old came together, such as 6-year-old Mikaela, who sported a pink cape, a pink T-shirt adorned with Sleeping Beauty and a pink-and-white crown. She says she loves to dance, loves the color pink and loves people, too.
Race spokeswoman Cheryl Stopnick said the race has become a community tradition.
“There are people here who have been at Bayfront Park for Race For the Cure for every single race since 1996,’’ she said. “And we get new ones who come every year. They walk on behalf of themselves, for a friend, or a family member or just because they’re passionate about finding a cure. The courage here just cannot be put into words.’’
The race brought out the runners on a steamy Saturday morning. At 9 a.m., just around the start of the race, the temperature climbed to 77 degrees with 76 percent humidty.
“I made it,’’ one survivor shouted as she marched, carrying a rose from the survivor ceremony. “I’m a survivor. Sí sí!’’
“I need water,” yelled another runner as she crossed the finish line, arms raised high above her head. “I can’t believe I finished.”
Jennifer Estime, 25, of Miami won the 5K in the women’s division with a time of 21:49.
Wilman Santa Cruz, 41, came in first in the men’s division with a time of 18:28. He ran for a loved one in Venezuela.
The race — and the tens of thousands who came out to support the cause — fueled the survivors.
Rocio Janero, a survivor since 2009, called it “a blessing to still be alive.’’
She recently was diagnosed with bone cancer, and said surviving breast cancer has given her the faith to overcome her latest bout of cancer.
“I know I can handle it,” Janero said. “This race is a reminder of that.”