More than 8,000 participate

YOUNGSTOWN – They came to either walk or run, but their participation will help make a difference for those battling breast cancer.

More than 8,000 participants ran or walked through downtown Youngstown on Sunday in the fourth annual Panerathon, helping to raise $250,000 for the Humility of Mary Health Partners Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center.

Participants in the the 10k run traveled through Mill Creek Park, while those in a 2-mile walk stayed in the city’s downtown, both starting at the Covelli Centre. Money raised is used for breast cancer research.

Allen Ryan, director of corporate affairs at Covelli Enterprises, said the event is family-oriented and has activities for people of all ages. Activities included attractions from the Oh Wow! Center, bounce arounds, face painting and visits with sports mascots.

”Each year it gets bigger and better. The community really steps up to help. It’s amazing,” Ryan said of the event which went off under warm, sunny skies.

He said the race is the largest in the Youngstown area, with an estimated 6,500 adults and 1,500 children attending.

Since it began four years ago, the Panerathon has raised close to a $1 million for breast cancer research and awareness. Proceeds from the race will go to the HMHP Foundation, for the cancer center at St. Elizabeth Health Center.

Dr. Rashid Abdu, whose wife, Joanie, died from breast cancer and for whom the center is named, said he was “overwhelmed” by the number of participants.

”This is beyond my wildest dreams. The people here showed so much love, warmth and compassion to helping others,” Abdu said.

Sam Covelli, owner/operator of Covelli Enterprises, said he also was amazed at the turnout.

”This community is unbelievable to help with this great cause,” he said.

Brian Sinchak of Poland, president of Warren’s John F. Kennedy High School, along with his wife, Mandy, took part in the 2-mile walk as part of the school’s team.

”There are so many members of our community who have struggled with cancer. We wanted to be supportive of one of the largest fundraisers in the area,” Brian Sinchak said.

”It was great, and it was for a good cause,” Mandy Sinchak said.

Terry McCluskey of Vienna said ”it is phenomenal the number of people who show up from all over eastern Ohio and the outpouring of support for this.”

”It was unbelievable the number of people who were here. The people really showed they wanted to give back and help those battling breast cancer,” McCluskey said.

Running with McCluskey was Gianna Gerino, who said she hopes the event will continue to grow each year.

”I was just happy to be running for a good cause,” she said.

For Mitchell Dunham, 11, of Boardman, this year marked the first time he ran. His rookie status didn’t hurt him, though, as he placed second in the age 15 and younger category.

”It was fun to be in the race. My mom got me involved,” he said of Carrie Dunham, who said she had no qualms about her son running in such a big race.

Kara Sheesley of Austintown and formerly of McDonald, said she was among the 30-member team from Akron Children’s Hospital.

”It was my first time running in this. It was fun to be here and back running. I started running to be prepared for this,” she said.

Joanie Abdu, who was a head nurse at St. Elizabeth for more than 20 years, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993.

Her death in 1994 prompted her husband to create the care center.