LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - To raise awareness about lung cancer, walkers and runners laced up their sneakers for the annual 'Free to Breathe' 5K event Saturday morning.
Beginning with a warm-up, about a thousand participants gathered outside the Lake Charles Civic Center Saturday morning for the 6th Annual 'Free to Breathe' 5K.
"Today's event is to raise funds for research dollars for lung cancer. Lung Cancer is the least funded of all cancers for research," said Jean Kamla, Chairperson for 'Free to Breathe' in Lake Charles.
Each year, organizers say Lake Charles has raised enough money to fund a grant.
"Right now we're over $100,000 so we'll be able to fund another grant for this year," said Kamla.
After a quick ribbon-cutting, the race was on.
Posters setup reflected some of the faces of lung cancer, and today everyone seemed to dedicate their walk or run to someone special.
"My mom fought lung cancer for three and a half years, she passed away about 4 years ago," shared Lindsey Doss.
"Today's actually the fourth anniversary of my dad's death. Orange was his favorite color, he loved to stand out in a crowd," shared Leslie Harrington.
Carrying pictures or wearing tee shirts of their loved ones, today's fundraiser was also about raising awareness.
"In Louisiana in 2013, almost 3,700 people were diagnosed with lung cancer. Over 2,900 lost their life to lung cancer," said Kamla.
"A lot of people think this is a smoker's disease and don't get involved, however I never smoked and I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer," explained Cindy Grimmett.
Harrington added, "By the time we found out he had it he was in stage four so I would love to boost the awareness, have people do their physicals, do their x-rays to get checked out."
And while there were cheers for everyone at the finish line, firefighters wearing full gear and respirators drew the most attention.
Reagan McGee, one of those firefighters running for Ainsley's Angels says, "It's pretty tough but it's nothing compared to what these guys go through every day in their lives."
To conclude the event, rose petals were tossed to honor those lost, and still battling the disease.
Funds raised this year will go towards the Ben Mount Louisiana Hope Research Grant for Lung Cancer, in honor of Kamla's brother who passed away from the disease.
To donate visit: http://www.freetobreathe.org/