First annual Not Today Cancer 5K memorial is steps closer to raising awareness for pediatric cancer

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The 5K annual memorial participants pose for a photo before the race begins. Contestants had the option of running, jogging, walking or strolling to complete the 3.2-mile course. Photo by: Romi Azevedo

Ryo Miyake staff writer

More than 100 members from the Beverly Hills community came together to participate in the first annual Not Today Cancer (NTC) 5K at Roxbury Park on Sep. 26. The event was able to raise 10000 dollars.

JJ Duncan and Stacey Book started the nonprofit organization Not Today Cancer (NTC) after their son, Mason Duncan who attended Horace Mann Elementary School, passed away from leukemia. He was 9-years-old when he was diagnosed with T-Cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“My son died on Nov. 19 of 2020 [because] of leukemia, after battling for almost two years. One of the mantras for getting through hard times was, ‘Not today, cancer’. He used to say it with us. And so, when he passed, we decided [that] we wanted to help other kids so that they wouldn’t have the same fate that Mason had, and so we decided to start a nonprofit organization and name it after our favorite mantra, ‘Not today, cancer’,’’’ Duncan said.

Duncan was happy with the determination and spirit that the participants showed during the event. 

“My heart is so full right now. The emotion is huge, seeing all of these people from our community coming out to support this nonprofit, and I know in a lot of ways they’re here to support our family and support Mason, so it means more to me than I could ever put words to,” Duncan said.

Duncan wasn’t the only one who was thrilled with the event. One of the coordinators, Romi Azevedo, was also proud of their first annual event. 

“Our community shined so brightly today, coming together to energize the race to find a cure for pediatric cancer.  From BHHS to BVMS to Horace Mann, we had absolutely incredible participation of runners and volunteers that just took our breath away,” Azevedo said  

Over 200 people entered the race from ages 4 to 65-years-old.  Students from the high school and the middle school came to show their support, along with babies in strollers and community members and their dogs.

“We were all in together to be a part of the cure. Magnified by the love from BH families across the district, and BHUSD staff and Board of Education members, the day couldn’t have been any brighter to help Mason shine forever,” Azevedo said.

Just before the race began, Duncan gave some words of inspiration to the participants after thanking them for showing their support for the organization. Before the sound of the horn, she told the volunteers a memorable quote that was accompanied by huge rounds of applause and cheers.

“You’re all heroes today. You are all fighting something that can be beaten,” Duncan said.

Among the many participants, juniors Josh Hollander and Danielle Hollander won first and second place. Josh ran the 3.2 miles in 20:22.2 and Danielle in 20:24.3. 

The Not Today Cancer 5k was a success for many participants, and Duncan hopes that it will be a step towards finding a cure for pediatric cancer.

“It’s so important to know that a cure is possible. Science is moving in big ways every day for all kinds of cancer. Because of the underfunding of pediatric cancer, [finding a cure is] slower than it should be, and so kids like Mason are dying, Duncan said. “[Cancer is] the largest killer of children behind auto accidents in the U.S. and it’s a problem worldwide. So, it’s very important that we find a cure, and it can be done.”

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