Although officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta agree smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, the disease can strike anyone, even those who have never lifted a cigarette to their mouths, said Lithia Springs resident Uren Patel.
He and his sister, Bina, know that all too well and, as a result, Uren Patel is on the organizing committee for the fifth annual Free to Breathe 5K Run-Walk scheduled for Aug. 16 at John Howell Park in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta.
In July 2012, their 56-year-old mother, Usha, who had never smoked in her life, was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer.
Due to her rapidly deteriorating condition, their father, Bipin, put his wife in the hospital, where she died just a week later.
The Patel family was well known in Douglasville for a convenience store it operated in the city for many years.
Patel said he hopes this year’s event will again see his extended family take part in memory of their mother.
Last year, wearing distinctive lime green head bands with their mother’s name stitched across the front, Patel and his sister not only led a large entourage of family members running in the event but learned afterwards the family was the largest organized group in the race.
“We hope to have even more runners from our family this year,” he said, adding he could have more than 15 extended family members participating.
“This race is a fundraiser for a great cause, the fight against lung cancer.”
“However, we will run it as we did last year and, hopefully for years to come, in memory of a wonderful, caring and very loving person, our mother.”
Event spokesman Tyler Dangel said this marks the fifth year one of the sites for the race has been Atlanta. It started in 2006 in Philadelphia and has been well attended.
The Atlanta event raised more than $32,000 for lung cancer research in 2013.
Although race organizers have not set a goal for what they would like to raise, Dangel said its overall objective has remained the same since the first race eight years ago.