When it comes to raising awareness, there’s a lot of power in the community – if you know how to harness it.
That’s the message from organizers of the ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk, which marks its 10th anniversary this year. From humble beginnings, the event series now takes place in 42 towns and cities across the USA, from Boston to Miami, Los Angeles to Minneapolis.
Becoming part of a community
Jamie Bearse, CEO at ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer, said the Run/Walk events are not only a fantastic fundraiser – generating more than $10 million in the last decade – but also a terrific way to engage with the prostate cancer community.
“The Run/Walks serve as an entry point. People are invited not just to come and lace up their running shoes, but to stay: to get involved, stay involved and spread the word in an advocacy and awareness role.”
There’s no greater example of this than the story of Cheryl Nikituk, who came with her family to the very first ZERO Run/Walk in Washington, DC during 2008, after losing her husband and the father of her two daughters, Tara and Meghan, to prostate cancer. Ten years later, they are not just still involved in the event, but Cheryl is on ZERO’s Board of Directors.
Said Jamie: “What goes into getting people to step forward is inviting them into the organization and making them feel welcome.”
“They have been through tough times, but they have a home and a family within ZERO. The organization is theirs and I want them to feel ownership of it.”
Partnering for nationwide events
This principle of ownership is one that extends to the organization of the Run/Walk events, which are held throughout the year in partnership with local urology clinics.
“The practices host the Run/Walks in their area. They tap into the community, and we provide logistical support to do all the heavy lifting,” said Jamie.
Each event is assigned a volunteer ZERO race director, and the charity provides them with the practical support they need to oversee the operation.
“We empower the hosts by working alongside them to engage families as well as providing a template and a manual. We also connect them with other directors around the country and staff at ZERO coach them along the way,” said Jamie.
“It takes a village to host a successful walk. We have staff who lead on it, but it doesn’t happen without cause champions and volunteers. We have at least 50 or 60 volunteers on each event, and that’s really wonderful.”
Talking about prostate cancer
So far, more than 76,000 people have taken part in a Run/Walk, each of them helping to open up a conversation.
“In the U.S., prostate cancer is something that it isn’t always OK to talk about, it’s a taboo. By putting it out in the open like this, it’s a forum for people to say ‘count me in’.”
“It elevates the issue in a way that prompts people to talk about it, ask questions, and have a dialogue about prostate cancer,” explained Jamie.
And elevating the conversation is exactly what the group did during this Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, with advocates from ZERO meeting elected representatives to explain the importance of making prostate cancer a national priority.
During an event on Capitol Hill called the ZERO Prostate Cancer Summit, the group showed a film that looks at the impact of prostate cancer on the African American community. The fact that the movie was made by a ZERO volunteer goes to the very heart of what the group does, said Jamie.
“Having success as a patient advocacy nonprofit comes from telling the patient’s story. In every communication an advocacy organization delivers, the patient and his family needs to see themselves and the impact they are making,” he added.
Click here to find out more about the ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk.
Jamie will take part in a special Change Together Prostate Cancer Awareness Month webinar on October 11. For more information, please click here.