PORTLAND – Meg O’Keefe said her mother, Mary McVey of Bethel, was always the one to do “everything for everyone else,” so O’Keefe felt helpless being unable to do anything for her mother other than support her while she was being treated for breast cancer last year.
Now that McVey’s cancer has been in remission for a year, her daughter surprised her by organizing relatives from around the country to come to Maine to walk in McVey’s name on Sunday in the fourth annual Susan G. Komen Maine Race for the Cure 5K run/walk in Portland.
“We were thrilled that she’s one year in remission, and we think she deserves to celebrate,” said O’Keefe, who came from Atlanta, Ga., for Sunday’s event. “She handled it with grace.”
Relatives came from six states as far away as Colorado and Minnesota to walk as part of the fundraising team in McVey’s name, calling themselves “Mary’s Berrys” — Berry being McVey’s maiden name.
McVey, fighting back tears as she went to pose in a group photo with her family, said she was delighted by her daughter’s surprise.
They were among more than 1,100 people and 56 teams who participated in Sunday’s benefit event, which raised tens of thousands of dollars to benefit breast cancer education, treatment and research efforts.
“We raised over $80,000 so far, and participants have another month to send in pledges, so we expect to see thousands more,” said Sally Bilancia, executive director of Susan. G. Komen Maine.
Many teams took a festive approach to the race, dressing in pink outfits, tutus and wigs. Some sprayed their hair pink and wore pink stripes under their eyes.
The largest group, Strong Bodies for the Cure, rallied more than 100 people to run in memory of Jayne Giese, a longtime special education teacher from Yarmouth who died last year after battling breast cancer for nearly seven years.
“People wanted to come out and run in memory of Jayne,” said Mary Telsey, who helped organize the team of mostly Yarmouth residents.
Giese’s husband, George, said it meant a lot to him and their two children that so many people cared so much about his wife.
“It’s amazing,” said Giese, who also ran the race. “It says a lot about the community.”
Only a few drops of rain fell during the race, which followed a flat course from Payson Park south along Baxter Boulevard and doubled back, offering views of Portland’s Back Cove.
The overall winner of the race, James Harrigan, 47, of Center Ossipee, N.H., finished in 16 minutes, 49 seconds. The winner of the women’s race was 14-year-old Katherine Leggat-Barr of North Yarmouth, who finished in 19 minutes, 42 seconds.
A single group of co-workers from UBS, a financial services company with an office in Portland, raised more than $11,000 in pledges in a matter of only two weeks leading up to the race.
A UBS branch office administrator, Kristie Bateman, was diagnosed with breast cancer about a month ago, inspiring a co-worker, Danielle Klimash, to form a team to run in her name.
Jad Dieterle III, UBS executive director for northern New England, said he sent out an email to UBS offices in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
“We had 80 percent of our employees contribute,” said Dieterle. “When you have that many people contributing, it tells you how much she means to us.”
Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at: