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Fairfield Woman Honors Mother With 5K Cancer Run At Yankee Stadium

Rhonda Loft and her team gather at Yankee Stadium for the Runyon 5K race for cancer research. Loft, a Fairfield resident, runs in honor of her mother, who died of cancer.
Rhonda Loft and her team gather at Yankee Stadium for the Runyon 5K race for cancer research. Loft, a Fairfield resident, runs in honor of her mother, who died of cancer. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Rhonda Loft of Fairfield and a team of her friends joined 2,300 other runners in the annual Runyon 5K at Yankee Stadium, an event she takes part in to honor her mother, who died of cancer.

Loft’s mother was a big fan of the New York Yankees, and for the sixth year in a row, the Fairfield woman took part in the race, which benefits the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

Two years ago, Loft ran three days after the death of her mother, Fran Harris. This year’s run fell on the anniversary of her mother’s passing.

“The year she passed away was the hardest,’’ Loft said. “She was a big fan. I did it by myself the first two years, and have since created a team, Friends of Fran. It’s always very emotional.”

Besides remembering her mother, the race at Yankee Stadium also gives Loft a chance to celebrate her passion for the Yankees. In January, she attended the Yankees Fantasy Camp for Women at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. Some women she met there were part of her team for the run.

The course wound through the legendary ballpark’s concourses and ramps, leading adventurous runners up the stairs between levels. All participants appeared on the centerfield video board as they took two laps around the warning track circling the field.

The Runyon 5K is the only charitable run/walk that uses the iconic Yankee Stadium as its course. This year’s event raised more than $500,000 – and counting – for the nonprofit’s groundbreaking efforts to strike out cancer.

Since inception, the event has raised more than $3.5 million.

“Over the past six years, the proceeds from the Runyon 5K have allowed us to fund amazing cancer researchers doing incredible work,” said Lorraine Egan, Damon Runyon president and chief executive officer. "Our 5K participants have made breakthroughs possible – it’s as simple as that.”

The event – which launched inside Gate 4 at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 3 – featured an initial wave of competitive runners and Damon Runyon-funded young cancer researchers. That was followed by heats of recreational runners and walkers, with the last heat taking off in the early afternoon. The top finisher, for the second year in a row, was Matt Lowenthal, 28, from Woodhaven, Queens, N.Y., at just under 22 minutes.

The Runyon 5K is the latest chapter in the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation’s long history with the Yankees. After the Foundation’s establishment in 1946, Joe DiMaggio was on its board of directors and Mickey Mantle was an active fundraiser. Damon Runyon was a New York writer who began his career as a baseball journalist, revolutionizing how the game was covered and often reporting on Yankees games.

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