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'Heaven Can Wait' reaches major milestone

By Brittany Weiner
Published On: Jul 23 2013 08:53:25 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 23 2013 08:58:17 PM CDT

A one million dollar goal, 13 years in the making. The Heaven Can Wait annual 5K run and walk in June reached that goal this year.

BEND, Ore. -

A $1 million goal, 13 years in the making. The Heaven Can Wait annual 5K run and walk in June reached that goal this year.

Event founder Charlene Levesque's husband was the president of Central Oregon Running Klub, or CORK, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her diagnosis prompted CORK to create a women's race that promotes early detection of cancer and encourages a healthy, active lifestyle.

The Heaven Can Wait run was born.

It's a race that has drawn thousands every year. Some run in memory, others in victory, while some just run to support.

No matter what the reason, the Heaven Can Wait 5K run and walk is held for the fight.

"If I hadn't had breast cancer, this event wouldn't take place," said Levesque.

Levesque was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, the year before she started the event. But since the beginning, it's been more about health education than money.

"I can't believe we've made a million dollars. I never thought about how much we might make," said Levesque. "I did a mission statement the first year, and actually raising money was the fourth reason."

Proceeds from the race benefit Sara's Project; a breast health education and outreach partnership with St. Charles Bend.

"Sara's Project makes sure that those patients in those communities with breast cancer aren't going through it alone," said Alicia Downs, innovative therapies and outreach coordinator for the St. Charles Cancer Center.

The project offers support of all kinds, including gas cards to get to doctors appointments, lodging for out-of-town patients and a support group of survivors, to help walk patients through the process.

It's continued to thrive, with the growing support from Heaven Can Wait.

"It is absolutely amazing to think that in such a short time, and a relatively small community, we've been able to raise so much money and help so many hundreds of people Central Oregon, and Eastern Oregon communities. It's awe-inspiring," Downs said.

"We're all affected by breast cancer. Everybody knows somebody -- their neighbor, their grandmother, their mother had breast cancer," said  Levesque. "So there's this big support for breast cancer."

Levesque says she has no new monetary goal. But with the race up to over 4,000 participants and bringing in over $100,000 a year, it's a celebration of cancer survivorship that will continue for many years to come.

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