To bystanders watching the wave of pink wash through uptown Charlotte on Saturday morning, it was the 20th annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
To the people walking or running in the race, wearing pink fashions of all sorts and displaying the names of friends or loved ones who have fought or are still battling breast cancer, it was a family — one with some 15,000 members.
The race began in 1997 with three women spearheading a grassroots effort that raised about $194,000. Since then, Susan G. Komen’s Charlotte race has raised more than $25 million.
Around 10,000 people registered in advance for the race, said Tami Simmons, executive director of Komen Charlotte. Simmons said typically twice that number usually show up in Marshall Park on race day, but Saturday’s final numbers haven’t been tallied.
Nora Meszaros and her husband Robert have been coming to the race for 12 years.
“Look around: All these people, all the survivors, all the potential people that need help from Susan G. Komen,” she said of the pink-clad racers at the starting line. “It’s a sisterhood — whether it’s a male or a female, it’s very important.”
The couple’s two dogs sported pink tutus for the walk. Among the crowd, race-goers sported other outrageous pink fashions, from spray-painted hair and beards to spandex body suits and capes.
The fashion statements are a favorite staple of the race for Christy Burke, a Charlotte resident and 10-year survivor of breast cancer who on Saturday walked in furry pink boot covers.
“There’s so many different types of people, guys in dresses and people in pink hair,” she said. “It’s just a really big, diverse group.”
Preliminary estimates showed Saturday’s race raising around $1 million, said Simmons, who encouraged people to continue donating to the Komen foundation throughout the month of October.
“A $200 check could cover the cost of someone’s mammogram,” she said.
Race officials said advance registration was down 20 percent this year. Despite last month’s protests in uptown, they said no participants had pulled out citing safety concerns.
Many in attendance Saturday said they weren’t swayed by the unrest or demonstrations in uptown. Simmons said organizers never had concern about canceling the race, but some people called and asked if the race was still on.
Burke said a common enemy like cancer can bring people of all races and backgrounds together.
“I believe pink lives matter, and everybody that’s out here is all different,” she said. “We’re really all just one big happy family.”
Angela Mincolla, who was part of a group of 12 friends wearing T-shirts that said “Save second base,” had similar feelings.
“My take on it is, this is gonna bring more people together,” she said, “which we need.”