The race is only 5 kilometers long, but three Jewish women have been running it for 25 years. Eileen Lane, Laurie Moser and Pat Siger, who in 1992 co-founded the Pittsburgh Race for the Cure, were honored for their decades of involvement in raising money for breast cancer treatment, screening, research and education.
The inaugural WHAM Pittsburgh Women of the Year Award, which was presented to the troika on June 26 at the August Wilson Center, celebrates their “longstanding commitment to improving the health and well-being of women and girls in the Pittsburgh region,” explained representatives of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative.
In addition to Lane, Moser and Siger, WTAE media personality Sally Wiggin, spokesperson for JHF’s Working Hearts initiative, and Kathi Elliott, executive director of social service organization Gwen’s Girls (accepting on behalf of Gwen’s Girls founder and former Pittsburgh police commander Gwen Elliott) were also Women of the Year honorees.
Women’s health networks have long impacted countless lives, and nowhere is this more visible than at Race for the Cure, explained Karen Wolk Feinstein, WHAMGlobal co-founder, president and CEO, Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative and Jewish Healthcare Foundation.
Each Mother’s Day, tens of thousands of participants make their way along a 3.1 mile path through Squirrel Hill and Schenley Park while calling attention to breast cancer and honoring those touched by the disease. Since 1992, the Race has raised more than $20 million locally.
“We’re really proud of all of the money that we’ve raised, but more important is the awareness,” said Siger.
“The race has done great things in raising the issue and ensuring people have diagnoses and treatment,” while also providing funding for research, agreed Lane.
Twenty-five years ago, women’s health was a topic largely misunderstood, said the honorees. It was a time when women were uncomfortable speaking to their employers about menopause or health conditions for fear of job loss. Activism and awareness altered those conditions, and through the perseverance of women like these three Jewish honorees, scores of lives have been bettered, noted Feinstein.
“We accomplished a lot in an area that we knew very little,” said Lane.
Because of the efforts of Lane, Siger and Moser, “the Women’s Health Activist Movement (WHAMGlobal) is proud to recognize them,” added Feinstein.
The honor, though accepted, should truly be redirected, said the recipients.
“Anything that I did or that the others did in starting the race takes a whole community,” said Lane.
“I don’t feel like I need to be honored,” agreed Moser. “What I really want to honor are all of the people who have been in the trenches. The work that our doctors and researchers have done — we have raised the money to support some of that work — but that’s the exciting thing that should be honored.”
The efforts of those involved on a day-to-day basis with breast cancer has provided new services for women, while elevating the level of women’s health in this region, said Siger. If anything, the reason why “this WHAM honor is so important, it’s that we are going to be building on what we’ve accomplished, [and] there’s more to do.”
In calling attention to the many involved, the honorees singled out the JHF’s unwavering commitment to improving women’s health.
“Twenty-five years ago, when we first started approaching organizations for money, the first gift was for $15,000, and it was from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and we were so excited,” said Moser.
But apart from money, the organization also “gave us some guidance and some ideas that made this a much larger and community oriented event,” explained Lane.
All of these years later, “the Jewish Healthcare Foundation is still innovating around women’s health and asking the community in a thoughtful way to position itself on the next issue that is facing women and that we can resolve as a community,” said Siger.
And looking back now, it’s crazy to think of how far it’s all come, said the group.
“When we first started the race, we were told that we would have 500 people,” noted Moser.
And that year, “we got 3,000. It’s always exceeded our expectation,” said Lane.
Nonetheless, even with advancements made and awards in hand, said Siger, the task is not complete.
“We can’t be too smug, there’s still lots of work to do.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.