By Sadie Hunter
For six years, hundreds have participated in the annual Get Your Rear in Gear event, a 5K run/walk to raise awareness and funds for colon cancer.
For the past three years, Noblesville resident Angie Hipsher-Williams, 39, has organized the event. Although she is stepping down in that role, she still looks forward to participating and being a champion for colon cancer awareness and research. She became involved in the event nearly seven years ago when her then-husband, Andy, was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 32.
Andy died in October 2012 after a nearly three-year battle with the disease.
“We were trying to find a way to feel like we were contributing to the cause,” Hipsher-Williams said. “It’s a national program, not just a local event, and you can see its effects throughout the U.S. We thought it was neat to be involved in something that big, even though here, locally, it was just a few hundred people.”
Now in its seventh year, the event is welcoming a new director, Jenny Ward of Carmel, who first became involved with Get Your Rear in Gear in 2013 after her mother, Mary, was diagnosed. Mary died just weeks after participating in the 5K, in December 2013.
Ward, 53, has long had a heightened awareness of colon cancer.
“Honestly, I’m (stepping into this role) because I’m really angry that more people do not talk about this,” Ward said. “I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was pregnant with my daughter 20 years ago. I was told I was at a much higher risk for colon cancer myself. I became very aware, and I was very diligent. I decided I wasn’t going to be embarrassed by this. So over the years, I think the thing that I found most frustrating was that even my own parent didn’t go get a screening, even after all those years of me talking.”
“There’s not a lot of symptoms until it’s far along, and even if it does come up, like blood in the stool, a lot of people write it off as hemorrhoids or something,” Hipsher-Williams said. “My husband was 32 when he was diagnosed. You hear about people who are over 50 are the ones who have to be screened all the time, and his doctor wrote off any issues he was having as hemorrhoids, and they went away, so nobody really even thought about it. A year later, he had tumors everywhere, and he was diagnosed at stage four. If you get diagnosed early on, it’s overly treatable. But it was when it spread to his liver that it really lead to his passing away.”
Get Your Rear in Gear will return to Noblesville’s Dillon Park, 6001 Edenshall Lane, Oct. 15. Hipsher said at least 60 percent of the funds raised from the event go back into the local community for awareness and research.
The event typically draws approximately 400 people. Ward said this year she expects 400 to 500 participants. She added as the event continues to grow, a more central location will be sought to host the event, which serves as the Indianapolis event.
Guests and participants can expect a memory walk that features signs and photos honoring those struggling with colon cancer and those locally who have lost their battle. Ward also said the pharmaceutical company Bayer is providing a giant artificial colon for people to take photos with and walk through. Music, snacks and drinks also will be provided after the race in the park’s gazebo, along with drawings and prizes.
Ward said the primary goal of the event is awareness.
“Indiana’s one of the worst states for getting colonoscopies in the country. I think we’re like 48 out of 50 in our ranking of being proactive,” she said. “It can be very frustrating because colorectal cancer is the second-leading killer (behind lung cancer) of cancers in men and women, and it’s one of the least talked about. People don’t want to talk about their poop, and I think there’s a stigma around colon cancer. One out of 20 will be diagnosed with colon cancer, and for the most part, lives can be extended considerably just by screening. Early detection is huge. I think people need to talk about poop, they need to talk about their butt, they need to talk about colonoscopies.”
GET YOUR REAR IN GEAR 5K RUN/WALK
When: Starts at 9 a.m. Oct. 15.
Where: James A. Dillon Park, 6001 Edenshall Lane, Noblesville.
Cost: $30/adults. $20/kids 12 and under.
Registration: Online registration closes 6 p.m. Oct. 12. Same-day registration Oct. 15 begins at 7:30 a.m. Pre-packet pick-up is from 4 to 7 p.m. at BlueMile, 2452 E. 146th St., Carmel.
MEET JENNY AND ANGIE
Jenny Ward, 2016 event director
Participation: Began participating in Get Your Rear in Gear in 2013, continuing in 2014 and 2015. This is her first year as event director.
Job: Works in cyber security with RSA, a Massachusetts-based security solutions company.
Family: Daughter Riley, 19.
Contact: [email protected].
Angie Hipsher-Williams, former event director
Participation: Began participating in 2010, continuing in 2011 and 2012. She was the event’s director in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and will participate with a team and as a runner this year.
Job: Works for Crowe Horwath, a Chicago-based accounting firm in Indianapolis.
Family: Children Drew, 12, and Kaelyn, 9. Husband, Joey.