Editor's note: This corrects the spelling of Marica Pendjer's name.
More than a decade ago, while at a Susan G. Komen for the Cure race in Newport Beach, Marica Pendjer saw something that had a profound effect on her life.
She saw a little girl with her dad walking in memory of her mother, whom she lost to breast cancer.
"I'm not a crier, I'm not a super-emotional person, but when they walked by and I realized that this little girl had lost her mom to this disease, my throat just closed up," Pendjer said. "That's when I made the Komen promise my own. That little girl will never know the impact she had on me."
Ever since, Pendjer, 44, has been involved with the foundation and has served in many roles and capacities. This year, Pendjer is chairwoman of the 19th annual Susan G. Komen Orange County Race for the Cure, which is taking place 6:30 a.m. to noon Sunday at the Pacific Life building near Fashion Island in Newport Beach.
The race attracts more than 30,000 advocates, supporters and cancer survivors, making it the largest fundraising event in Southern California that supports breast-cancer awareness, medical services and research.
Nancy Brinker, the woman who founded Susan G. Komen after promising her dying sister to make a difference in the lives of others battling the disease, will be attending this year's race and sharing her story.
"That promise between the sisters is now a global movement," Pendjer said. "What people need to understand is the prevalence of breast cancer, how many women and men it effects. When the mother or the woman of the family is not doing well, it affects the entire family. This is a disease that touches many, many lives."
Each participant is asked to raise $125 to reach this year's goal: $3.1 million.
At least 75% of the funds go toward breast-cancer awareness programs, medical services for those who are uninsured or underinsured, and other local grants for breast health organizations. The rest goes toward the Komen Award and Research Grant Program for cure research.
Nancy Enomoto is a 15-year breast cancer survivor. Loneliness and fear was all that occupied her mind when she heard the word cancer.
"That's all I heard," she said. "My mother and father both died from cancer. I was terrified. I was terrified because of the word. It touched very close to home."
Enomoto, 65, said at the time of her diagnosis, she didn't know where to go for resources.
"The reason why I love Komen, why I support Komen, is in those 15 years, people are talking about breast cancer. There's Komen to go to as a resource for breast cancer," she said. "If I was diagnosed now, I wouldn't be so lonely."
Enomoto has been either volunteering or walking for a cure for the past 15 years. She now serves on the Komen Orange County Board of Directors.
"I have two daughters and two granddaughters," she said. "I'm so passionate about the fact that I hope there's a cure for breast cancer and that they wouldn't have to worry about it."
Aside from wanting to see it through, there's a special bond that Enomoto gets from continuing to volunteer for Komen.
"Ever since my diagnosis, I found that there's a bond. It doesn't matter who you are, what nationality, your income level, whatever. There's a bond between survivors and that's why I continue to volunteer," she said. "That's why I continue to reach out to other survivors, because I think the whole is bigger than all the pieces."
A tribute in honor of those who survive breast cancer is also set to take place during the race.
"Survivors tribute is the most inspirational event," Enomoto said. "It's so, so inspirational. It's something like 2,000 survivors on the steps of Pacific Life celebrating their survivorship."
If You Go
What: The 19th annual Susan G. Komen Orange County Race for the Cure
When: 6:30 a.m. to noon Sunday
Where: Pacific Life, 700 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach
Three races are scheduled:
5K run/walk at 7:30 and 9:45 a.m.
One Mile Fun Walk at 8 a.m.
Breast cancer tribute at 9 a.m.
Walk-in registration is at the Komen Race Registration Suite at the Atrium Court at Fashion Island, 401 Newport Center Drive. Registration can also be done at http://www.komenoc.org. For more information call, (714) 957-9157.