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Las Cruces community helps kick off CARE's year of events with 5K run

February 03, 2018 | Las Cruces Sun-News Online

Las Cruces Sun-News

Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES – Patricia Varajas had a team of seven rallying behind her.

Patricia, of La Mesa, is one of the many cancer-diagnosed patients whose family has received financial help from CARE. The Varajas family received gas cards and were in the food program for a year as Patricia underwent treatment, her sister Corina Varajas said.

“We didn’t realize we would get any help,” when they first learned of the cancer, Corina said, She added that they didn’t realize the cost of driving to Las Cruces for treatment until they were doing it every day.

Patricia is at the tail end of beating her cancer, as she only has a few CT scans and MRIs left, Corina said.

To help families like Patricia’s, about 70 community members gathered at La Plaza de Mesilla on Saturday to run in support of CARE and to bring about cancer awareness.

CARE — Cancer Aid Resource and Education — hosted the “Race for CARE 5K run, 1K walk kickoff” to bring attention to February being the cancer awareness month for Doña Ana County, as well as the National Cancer Prevention Month.

By participating, runners are helping recently diagnosed cancer patients in Doña Ana County who are going through treatment receive financial help.

“You’re helping our community, contributing to our community,” said Yoli Diaz, president of CARE. “That’s where the funds go, to our community.”

CARE is an organization that assists cancer patients in the county with services, resources and general education, as they fight the disease, Diaz said. The organization, which relies entirely on volunteers, works to help families in need by providing financial assistance for non-medical needs such as gas cards, utilities and travel for treatment, according to their website.

Since they started on July 31,2013, the organization has given $380,000 to the struggling families of local cancer patients, Diaz said.

“It’s a nice, energetic event and the proceeds go to CARE,” Diaz said. “And it promotes a healthy lifestyle.”

The runners and walkers lined up on Calle de Guadalupe as they headed out. One runner, Kelly Campion, was joined with her 8-year-old daughter Jordyn and son Josh.

Campion said she is not personally affected by cancer but it is a cause she believes in and fully supports.

“So many people are affected by all different kinds of cancer, and we’re here to help the local community,” Champion said. “I’m lucky because my kids are healthy … but nobody should have to go through that.”

Cancer impacts both family budgets and patients’ health.

According to the National Cancer Institute, when a loved one develops cancer, the family’s risk of significant financial hardship becomes startlingly high. The problem of paying for cancer care is so vast that it has a name, financial toxicity, representing the “other” toxic side effect of cancer treatment. Patients who get into financial difficulty suffer high rates of emotional distress and lower quality of life, the institute said.

CARE works to relieve some of that burden.

The kickoff race is the first fundraiser for the organization of the year, Diaz said. They will hold a second event — Sunday Funday at the Plaza with CARE” — at Plaza de Las Cruces Feb. 4, which will be held every first Sunday of the month through October.

A separate 5K race is scheduled for Feb. 10 in Mesilla in support of people with disabilities. The Cupid’s Chase 5K begins at 9 a.m. Registration is $30 and can be found at