Droves of pink-clad runners and supporters are expected to flood the streets of Downtown Jacksonville and the Beaches this weekend for The DONNA Foundation’s annual DONNA Marathon Weekend, to be held Feb. 9-11. Now in its 11th year, the theme of this year’s event will be “#FindYourFinish.”
Beginning Friday, Feb. 9 at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center at 1000 Water St. in Jacksonville, this weekend’s events will kick off with the DONNA Expo, from noon to 7 p.m. The races will then begin at the same location Saturday morning, including the DONNA 10K, 5K and Family Fun Run. Finally, the Marathon Weekend will be capped off on Sunday with the “26.2 with DONNA Marathon,” the DONNA Half Marathon, the DONNA Relay and – a new addition to the list – the Corporate Challenge, all starting off of ATP Tour Boulevard in Ponte Vedra Beach.
“We’ve asked corporations around Jacksonville to build relay teams of five people, and they’ll compete against each other not only in running, but in fundraising,” said Donna Deegan, founder of The DONNA Foundation, about the new corporate relay. “Not everyone wants to run marathon-distance, but we have a lot of people that want to help us with breast cancer, so to be able to add more options for people is always a good thing.”
A former First Coast News anchor, Deegan is a three-time breast cancer survivor who, in the midst of her battle with the disease, started a personal blog to share her experiences with others. Not long afterward, she said, she began to receive feedback from others who were struggling under the burdens of breast cancer.
“I started to hear from a lot of underserved people who were having a really tough time and trying to decide whether to buy their medicines, or put food on the table for their kids,” she said.
According to Deegan, that feedback fanned the flames of her determination to “finish breast cancer,” eventually sparking the idea for The DONNA Foundation.
“With a lot of help, we started this foundation for underserved women on the First Coast who were going through breast cancer treatment, but were having a difficult time making ends meet,” she said. “We decided we would pay for their critical needs while they were going through treatment, so they could focus on trying to get better.”
Since its founding in 2003, The DONNA Foundation has remained committed to that goal, assisting breast cancer patients and researchers in their respective battles against the disease.
“We’ve raised millions of dollars, $3 million of which has gone to a very specific research project called Translational Genomics at Mayo Clinic, which has really reaped incredible benefits in the research world,” Deegan said. “And on the other side, we’ve been able to help more than 11,000 families with their critical needs. It’s been a huge blessing to be able to get people from all over the country and the world to come here and run and raise money, and that’s really our goal. We just hope we can encourage more and more people not only to run, but to fundraise as well.”
Registration for the upcoming Marathon Weekend has been extended through this Saturday, and those interested in participating can learn more and sign up at www.breastcancermarathon.com. For those who are physically unable to run, but still wish to show their support, volunteering is also an option.
“We need 2,000 volunteers for this event every year, and we take great care of our volunteers,” Deegan said. “They have a lot of fun, and it’s a great, uplifting day, so we would encourage people who don’t want to run or walk to get out there and volunteer, or cheer. Just come out along the race course and help us cheer on these wonderful folks who are helping us a do a good thing.”