26.2 with Donna marks another successful year | News

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26.2 with Donna marks another successful year
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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Every day, four women on the First Coast learn they have breast cancer.

The problem is many of them don't have the resources to pay for treatment.

That's where the Donna Foundation comes in, founded by former First Coast News anchor Donna Deegan, who is a three-time breast cancer survivor.

The foundation raises money to pay for groundbreaking cancer research and treatment with the hope to one day beat the deadly disease once and for all.

Roughly 10,000 people from all 50 states and 20 countries laced up their sneakers Sunday for the 6th annual 26.2 with Donna marathon and half marathon. It is a Boston qualifier and considered the country's only marathon solely dedicated to raising money for breast cancer.

"We've all known somebody who's lost someone to cancer," said half-marathon walker Donna Hoffman.

Sunday started at runner's village, where participants huddled around heating stations and sipped coffee to stay warm.

"Every year I've been here it's been cold. I'm waiting for a warm year," Hoffman joked.

Then it was off to the starting line, which was in a new location this year. In the past, runners started and finished at Mayo Clinic. But the ATP Tour in Ponte Vedra Beach served as the starting point.

The race was delayed by about half an hour Sunday due to traffic congestion on A1A. But once the countdown was over, confetti filled the sky and the runners were off like a stampede. Many runners were wearing festive costumes, but nearly everyone's attire had a shade of pink to support breast cancer awareness.

"It adds character and shows the support for what the actual event stands for, and it shows anybody can wear a tutu on one particular day," said half marathon runner Clayton Everett.

Another similarity among the participants was the fact many of them were running because the disease has personally impacted them.

Half marathoner Roseann Palmer said, "I do have some breast cancer in my family, so it's kind of meaningful to me."

Scott Acampora with the St. John's County Fire & Rescue Department said, "We've had people in our department with several forms of cancer, and we're running for those people also."

In fact, Acampora and some of his colleagues were planning to run the entire marathon wearing full firefighting gear. They had oxygen tanks on and all, which so happened to have names written on them of people who have or had cancer.

"It's definitely going to be difficult, but we're the warmest ones here," Acampora joked about wearing the heavy gear. He said it added 35 to 40 pounds to their body weight.

After more than an hour, the runners started trickling one by one through the finish line at Mayo Clinic.

The hope is, as it is every year, that each step in the race will be a step toward finding a cure.

"If we don't do anything, nothing is going to happen," Hoffman said.

To date, the 26.2 with Donna has contributed more than $3 million to the foundation and Mayo collectively.

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