Maple Valley's Wings of Karen takes flight with first fundraising event
By TJ MARTINELL
Covington Reporter Reporter
October 5, 2012 · Updated 10:10 AM
Kristi Blair has done the seemingly impossible.
She managed to get 10-year-old boys and full grown men to wear bras while running in a 5K race to raise money for breast cancer research, and love every minute of it.
With the help of the Maple Valley and Covington communities, her non-profit Wings of Karen raised $30,000 from the 5K Bra Dash Sept. 9 at Lake Wilderness Park.
Blair will also be at the Seahawks’ Oct. 14 home game against the Patriots to receive a plaque from the Seattle Seahawks Women’s Association.
Wings of Karen raises funds to promote breast cancer research in the Pacific Northwest through the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, a collaboration between UW Medicine and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. For an organization that was formed earlier this year, it’s a good start out of the blocks for Blair, who said she learned of how much money had been raised within days after the event. However, she realized early on in the summer it would be successful, when hundreds of people quickly signed up. With a goal of 250 people, the race drew more than 800 runners in addition to 100 volunteers. Much of this came as a surprise to her, as she did not expect it to grow so quickly.
“I don’t know if we’re worried about success but since we’re a new foundation we’re figuring out how to get the word out about what we’re trying to do,” she said. “It’s a new grassroots effort in that respect we’re finding new ways to get the word out. When 100 people sign up in the first week, we knew we were going to pass our goal.”
Much of the Bra Dash’s success — and Wings of Karen’s growth — is due to community volunteers, from the Tahoma High band and cheer squad to the Kentwood dance team.
Blair also felt Wings of Karen’s mission to donate 100 percent of the money raised to research, which also remains in the region, makes up a large reason people are so willing to get involved.
“It shows how amazing this community is too,” she said. “It’s pretty remarkable. We were taken back. I think the big support comes as people learn about our foundation, and we’re keeping all the money, and it’s going to our own backyard it means more to people if they know where money is going.”
She added that Wings of Karen will never reach the point where a large chunk of the money is eaten up by administrative costs.
“I will put my stamp on that forever,” she said. “It’s coming from a patient myself and losing my mom.”
Blair is currently going through her own cancer treatment, which is expected to last for five more years.
The plaque from the Seahawks Women’s Association will indicate their support for the organization’s ongoing future events, where Blair hopes to expand the 5K Bra Dash to other cities in the area. For a breast cancer event that draws an unusually large percentage of men, she sees this as a sign for potential to expand on a successful formula. Half of the runners at the Sept. 9 race were women, while 25 percent were adult men and another 25 percent were children — a ratio which Blair said is atypical.
“The response we’ve gotten from that is that people love to bring their family to do something,” she said. “At the beginning of all this we thought we’d have a women’s run, but it allowed family to come.”
Blair stated although the organization exists to raise money for research, it’s also to promote awareness and education.
And, also, some fun at the same time.
If persuading 10-year-old boys to wear a bra in a race is any indication, Blair seems to be off to a good start.
Contact Covington Reporter Reporter TJ Martinell at email@example.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.