Step It Up to take down pancreatic cancer

Around Town

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Pancreatic Cancer Association of Western New York wants your help fighting pancreatic cancer during this year’s “Step It Up! Cure Pancreatic Cancer 5K & Family Fun Day” November 1-21.

PCAWNY Executive Director Mary Ellen Smith discussed the fundraiser and the fight against the deadly disease Monday during News 8 at Noon.

“We formed in 2009 after about 15 or 17 of us connected after seeing an article by our three founders who found themselves on the Johns Hopkins board sharing a similar relationship to this disease,” Smith said. “We all gathered and realized that the statistics were so dire and so horrible and had not changed in well over 40 years that we had to do something, so we formed our first Step It Up walk back in 2010. Our overall mission is really to create awareness around this disease, raise funds for research – which is drastically needed because it is so underfunded compared to every other major cancer – and to advocate for those who are effected by the disease – patients and families – to be that resource network for them to kind of navigate through the process, understand what things mean, and connect them to the right resources.”

For Smith, the fight is personal. She lost her mother to the deadly disease in 2009. Progress is being made. “When we started in 2009 the five year survival rate was only about three percent. It is now 11 years later in our agency’s term and it has gone up to just over nine percent for five year survival. A six percent jump doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s fantastic and it’s huge for anyone who’s been diagnosed. It just means that there is hope and we’re getting there because of research. Over the 11 years we have donated, from the generosity of the community, well over $750,000 to Wilmot Cancer Institute.”

To be safe and physically distanced, this year’s “Step It Up! Cure Pancreatic Cancer 5K & Family Fun Day” is being done virtually over three weeks. “November is National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, so we wanted to incorporate the family-fun part, which was very important to us because nobody fights cancer alone and you need that family support. So we have built in a bunch of activities for the adults and for the kids. You can walk on your own or walk with your family because to us it doesn’t matter where you walk. Who you walk for matters.”

Registration is $10. To sign up and learn more, visit

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