Free to Breathe event to encourage people to get active

Lung cancer has taken many of Robin Bartell’s friends and family, but it won’t get her down.

In fact, the Selbyville woman is getting up for the third annual Delmarva Free to Breathe 5K run and walk on Sunday, Aug. 12, in Lewes.

“Everybody that has died in my life, except one, has died from lung cancer,” said Bartell.

It started when Bartell was young and her grandfather passed away. Years later, in 2010, her father-in-law also succumbed to the disease.

“He died the same way my grandfather did in the ’80s, and I said, ‘Have we made no progress?’ It was the same deterioration,” Bartell recalled.

“People sit around and feel sorry for themselves. Get up and do something,” she challenged.

Bartell heard about the fundraiser on the radio and promptly formed Team MOJO, which anyone may join.

“I just want people to know. Join the race. Join the team!” she said.

Whether people want an excuse to volunteer or they are personally affected by the disease, the Free to Breathe 5K brings the community together to give hope to those impacted by the lung cancer.

All proceeds will help support the National Lung Cancer Partnership’s research, education and awareness programs. This includes “young investigator” research grants.

After Bartell quit smoking eight years ago, she began running to lose weight and stay busy. She did her first 5K several years ago and recently began practicing Pilates.

“My main goal is awareness about the disease,” said Bartell, who especially wants to remove the stigma of lung cancer as a ‘smoker’s disease.’ “My dad’s wife has it, and she never smoked a day in her life.”

Between family and friends, Bartell has lost a total of seven people to lung cancer — four of them in a single year — and she knows another two people living with the disease.

“I’ve learned what it does … and I’m bitter about the treatment. It’s not just losing your hair,” she admitted, describing the exhausting effects of chemotherapy and radiation. “And that’s devastating. It tears the family apart.”

Brian Brubaker first discovered the Free to Breathe 5K in Philadelphia several years ago.

“I just wanted to get more involved with charity and giving back to the community,” he said, having not been personally affected by lung cancer.

Yet, the day after running that 5K, Brubaker received news that his cousin in Buffalo, N.Y., had been diagnosed with the disease.

“Things come along in life and smack you upside the head, and say, ‘This is what you should be doing,’” Brubaker said.

That’s when he helped form the first Delmarva Free to Breathe event in 2010. As local event chairperson, Brubaker said he has only seen participation increase.

“It’s not only just for runners and walkers. It’s kid-friendly,” said Brubaker, describing the 5K, 1 mile and Kids’ Dash.

“This event — you’re not going to be judged here. Cancer is cancer,” Brubaker said. “The main thing is we basically feel they’ve done something to help fight the stigma and raise money.”

Lung cancer is the most aggressive cancer and the hardest to detect, so it’s more devastating than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined, according to Brubaker.

“Back in ’07, I had no idea,” said Brubaker, adding that he hopes people will gain knowledge that lung cancer can affect anyone, regardless of age, race or gender.

“Everyone has a different cancer organization that they support. It’s my hope that this research can help benefit the others,” he said, noting that Free to Breathe events have raised $2.1 million in the last five years.

The Delmarva Free to Breathe 5K Run/Walk, 1 Mile Walk and Kids’ Dash event begins at the field house of Cape Henlopen High School and loops through historic Lewes. Free parking will be available onsite.

Participants may register to the morning of the race, beginning at 7 a.m. Warm-up and a rally are planned at 8:30 a.m. The races begin at 10:15.

The cost is $25 for adults and $10 for children ages 12 or younger. To save a few dollars, participants can register by mail, but the registration must be received by Friday, Aug. 3. Online registration closes Wednesday, Aug. 8.

All registration forms are available online at All online and mail-in registrants are guaranteed an event T-shirt. A limited quantity of T-shirts will be available for those registering on event day. Awards will be given to top runners in each age category and to top fundraisers, and an honorary slideshow presentation will show pictures of loved ones affected by lung cancer.