The Story of the LA Cancer Challenge from our Event Chairperson & Executive Director of the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, Lisa Manheim
The LACC is a magical event steeped in a rich tradition of family, friends and a relentless effort to raise money to find a cure for Pancreatic Cancer. I have had the privilege of serving as Race Director of the LA Cancer Challenge (“LACC”) since 1999. Watching the event, now in its 15th year, grow into one of the largest 5K/10K’s in Southern California and the single largest fundraiser for our foundation, has been the most rewarding part of my adult life (aside from raising my three sons). I always say that the LACC is my fourth child, and planning it each year is like giving birth!
Just a few short months after the death of my stepfather Ron Hirshberg, his son Jon (my stepbrother), was determined to organize a fundraising event in his father’s memory. He wanted to raise awareness and funds for pancreatic cancer research with an event that captured the spirit of his dad. The inaugural LA Cancer Challenge, then called the Adidas Three-Stripe Challenge, was launched in the fall of 1998 in Century City. 900 registered runners and 3 teams combined to raise $34,000. Our family still laughs about closing down Avenue of the Stars at 3:00 in the morning to set up the expo. We honored Ronnie with family and friends (new and old) while accomplishing our goal of awakening people to the importance of finding a cure and early diagnosis.
Like my three sons, the LACC keeps growing and growing. The money we raise helps our research grow. Our commitment to continue funding research projects that will lead us to end this incurable cancer is expanding too. If you’ve been touched by this disease or helped with the event you’re part of our family now. As our family grows, so does our ability to fulfill our mission. Thank you for helping my fourth child grow into something truly special.
The event has changed a lot over the years but some things have remained constant. Whether it’s adding more porta-potties, relocating registration or revamping the course, we make the changes we need to keep on growing, yet remain rooted in certain important traditions. It is a family event, held outdoors, involving exercise and focused on raising money for basic research. And one of the most important constants is the race start. The “starter vehicle” for each LACC is my stepdad’s Harley Davidson, ridden by one of his old buddies. The roar of that motorcycle engine reminds us why we started this journey. Once the start horn is blown and we watch all the amazing teams cross the start, we know why we keep at it, year after year.
At the Hirshberg Foundation, we are passionately engaged in a battle against a disease that kills thousands each year and touches the lives of countless more friends and families. I am continuously amazed at the meaningful relationships we have made with those who have faced this disease. Each LACC is like a family reunion, where we reconnect with the good friends and wonderful families who join our fight year after year. We celebrate those who are beating the odds. We also gather to remember those we lost and are reminded of the urgent need to keep on doing what we do.
The LACC community, now 15 years young, is unlike your typical teenager. We can’t go into our room, close the door and ignore our problems. We need to come out together, make some noise, and continue our fight against this disease. See you on October 28.