Still time to register for Shelter Island 5K run/walk

Photo by Eleanor P. Labrozzi

Photo by Eleanor P. Labrozzi

Louise O’Regan Clark makes light of her winning ways, but she has walked the Shelter Island 5K Run/Walk course for a decade now and has placed first among the walkers each year since 2007.

She’ll be back on the course at the 17th annual 5K Run/Walk Saturday and it will surprise no one if she earns another win.

But when she first got involved with the event — which raises money for The North Fork Breast Health Coalition, The Coalition for Women’s Cancers at Southampton Hospital and Lucia’s Angels — it was just for the camaraderie with relatives and friends on the Island.

The organizations all provide various services and support systems to cancer patients.

It wouldn’t be until November 2012 that Ms. Clark would be diagnosed with breast cancer and in need of her own support team.

That came from husband Keith Clark and her many friends and relatives on the Island as well as family and friends back in her native Ireland.

A close friend there was recently diagnosed and Ms. Clark is sharing her experiences and providing support, albeit from a distance.

Today, Ms. Clark is not only involved with helping to plan the run/walk each year, but with sharing her experience with recently diagnosed patients, offering them the support they need to undergo treatments and the hope they need to embrace the idea that there can be life after cancer.

Cancer-free today, Ms. Clark says of the race, “It’s still all about the community getting together.”

What keeps her walking competitively is “pure stubbornness,” she said.

Ms. Clark remembers those days of chemotherapy. They weren’t as difficult as they are for some, she said, but she had just gotten a puppy and having to respond to its needs wasn’t always easy. Today, that puppy is three years old and is Ms. Clark’s walking companion.

To those who doubt they have what it takes to participate in the race, Ms. Clark’s advice is simple: “Just get out there and do it; anybody can do it.”

Participants will be sporting shirts bearing the names of four beloved Islanders who died this past year — the inimitable Ben Jones, an active EMS volunteer right up until his own death at age 93; the spirited Charlotte Hannabury, who launched the Gift of Life Foundation after the 2002 death of her daughter Cheryl; South Ferry Captain Billy Boeklen, whose ready smile and upbeat attitude greeted passengers on the boats regularly; and Jeanne Farnan, who contributed her energy to many community efforts throughout her life.

Over the years, the event has contributed more than $300,000 to be used toward finding a cure for breast and other women’s cancers.

Contributions from sponsors and money raised by teams have all gone directly to patient care.

Lucia’s Angels benefits from the proceeds of raffle tickets sold the day of the race for various gifts.

Prizes go to the team with most participants; medals for the top finishers; and for the first walk and run finisher who is a breast cancer survivor.

A post-race party featuring chili and barbecue along with cookies and other goodies takes place at the end of the course.

The race gets under way on West Neck Road near Crescent Beach at 11 a.m. Saturday with Dr. Frank Adipietro, the voice of Shelter Island races, calling out results.

It’s not too late to register for Saturday’s race at www.shelterislandrun.com.