Sylvia Frerk, 43, of Watertown, has been an integral part of the LUNGevity Foundation’s Breathe Deep Boston 5K Walk from the beginning. Since its 2006 inception, Frerk has served as the year-round secretary and co-treasurer for the South Boston-based event and co-heads the onsite registration tent on walk day.
On Saturday, Nov. 2, thousands of participants will find her checking people in that haven’t registered online yet, distributing t-shirts and collecting donations during the eighth annual Breathe Deep Boston 5K Walk. Following the event, Frerk will work alongside co-treasurer Richard Doucette to carefully calculate walker registration fees and donations. The 2013 Breathe Deep Boston 5K Walk’s fundraising goal is to raise $250,000 to fund critical lung cancer research, advocacy and support across the country. To date, the one-day fundraising event has raised more than $1 million.
Frerk was inspired to get involved with the Breathe Deep Boston 5K Walk through her friend, Karen Tucci, whose mother, Geri Norris, co-founded the event. Norris created the event with Rich Kaufman, a lung cancer survivor, and the support of a small group of family, friends and volunteers. Norris, also a lung cancer survivor, wanted to raise money to help advance lung cancer research and treatments and create more awareness for the disease, which is often associated with the stigma that only smokers are susceptible. Norris has since passed away, but her legacy lives on through “Geri’s Inspiration,” a team of walkers and volunteers who raise money for the cause in her honor. This year, as a member of the team, Frerk hopes to raise $500.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, claiming approximately 160,000 lives every year. It can afflict anyone, regardless of smoking history, gender, or ethnicity. Currently, only 16 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer survive five years post-diagnosis. With early detection, there is hope of long-term survivorship.
“A couple of years ago when I was running the onsite registration tent, I noticed that one of our registered volunteers did not show up,” says Frerk. “Minutes later, the missing volunteer’s husband and young son arrived and explained that the woman was unable to attend because she recently succumbed to lung cancer, but, they wanted to volunteer in her memory. Their story reminds me how important the mission of the Breathe Deep Boston 5K Walk is to our community. People are dying every day at every age from this disease.”
LUNGevity Foundation is the nation’s largest private organization dedicated to research for the early detection and treatment of lung cancer. The Breathe Deep Boston 5K Walk is one of more than 80 LUNGevity events that take place annually across the country. Since 2002, they have collectively raised more than $11.4 million. Participants often walk in honor of someone currently battling lung cancer or in memory of someone lost to the disease. Individuals and/or businesses are encouraged to sign up as teams. The walk will kick-off at 11 a.m. at DCR’s Mother’s Rest Area in South Boston. The course is stroller and wheelchair-friendly.
To register for the Breathe Deep Boston 5K Walk on Nov. 2, or to support a walker, visit lungevity.org/boston or call (312) 407-6100. Participants can enter the discount code BREATHE for $5 off the registration fee. November is lung cancer awareness month.