WEST ORANGE, NJ — Hundreds of runners and walkers trekked up and down Main Street on Sept. 22 for the annual Mayor’s 5K Walk/Run to Break the Silence, raising approximately $80,000 for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition to aid research and raise awareness for early detection. The Downtown West Orange Alliance helped organize the event, which was known as the “Downtown Classic” until 2007, when it began raising funds for the NOCC. The event is held to honor the memory of Maureen Roehnelt, a longtime aide to New Jersey state Sen. and former Gov. Richard Codey, who died of ovarian cancer in 2006.
According to the NOCC, the disease is one of the more deadly forms of cancer although it has a five-year survival rate of more than 90 percent. However, it lacks detectable symptoms and an early detection test, so only about 20 percent of all cases are found in Stages I and II. The survival rate drops to as low as 28 percent when ovarian cancer reaches Stages III and IV.
Assemblyman John McKeon, who was mayor of West Orange when the event began supporting the NOCC, announced during the race award ceremony that thousands of dollars had been raised for the NOCC.
“That’s the real win today,” McKeon said.
After all 453 runners crossed the finish line and the walkers got back to the steps of Town Hall, the awards were handed out. Greg Johnson finished first overall with a time of 17:18, and the top overall female runner was Desirae Piccoli with a time of 22:23, who finished 11th overall. The top male runner from West Orange was Anselm Lebourne with a time of 18:59; he finished second overall. The top female runner from West Orange, who finished 35th overall, was Heidi Rivkin with a time of 25:18.
After the medals were handed out, runners headed to the lawn on the side of Town Hall to dedicate a tree to those who have lost their lives to ovarian cancer. Jennifer Marzigliano from the New Jersey chapter of the NOCC had suggested the idea to DWOA Executive Director Megan Brill while they were planning the event.
“We wanted to do something a little bit extra, and when he suggested this, I said ‘That’s it!’” Brill said at the event. “We know how to plant trees in West Orange.”
Photos by Amanda Valentovic and Courtesy of Joseph Fagan