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New Canaan Woman Helps Launch Westport Race For The Cure

Jeanine Gutauskas, left, of New Canaan and Trumbull's Jane Gladitsch are the co-chairs of the Susan Komen Race for the Cure in Westport this weekend.
Jeanine Gutauskas, left, of New Canaan and Trumbull's Jane Gladitsch are the co-chairs of the Susan Komen Race for the Cure in Westport this weekend. Photo Credit: Contributed by Susan G. Komen For The Cure

WESTPORT, Conn. – After some initial hesitation, New Canaan’s Jeanine Gutauskas is glad she accepted the role of co-chair for Saturday’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Westport.

Gutauskas and Trumbull’s Jane Gladitsch are the co-chairs for the event, which includes a 5K race on Saturday at Sherwood Island State Park. There are also kids races and walks Saturday and a survivor’s breakfast and parade Sunday.

“I was asked in late July or August of last year, and I thought, 'I don’t know about this,'’’ Gutauskas said. “I work full time, I have a family, and maybe I shouldn’t. Then two of our close friends got diagnosed with breast cancer. I had them get in contact with Anne Morris (the chief executive officer of Komen Connecticut) and she gave them a lot of information. I thought that was a signal of someone telling me that’s where I’m supposed to be.”

Gutauskas has participated in the Komen race in Hartford since 2007. Her mother-in-law fought breast cancer for 25 years before her death in 2012. “We got involved in the Hartford race and loved it,’’ she said. “Being the Type A personality I am, we were the highest fund raising team with $28,000 in our first last year there. I thought it was for a wonderful cause.”

The Hartford event become so popular, the Komen team thought the addition of a race in Fairfield County would be well received. Gutauskas said the event is “more like a festival” than a road race.

“We have two kids runs, and we also have two walks,’’ she said. “The major thing is honoring the survivors with a breakfast and a parade. It’s not so much about who finishes first in the 5K. It’s a full morning.  Very few people come in and run the 5K and leave.”

Even after agreeing to co-chair the race, Gutauskas said she was unsure of the response in Fairfield County, which has well-established races in Norwalk and Ridgefield this weekend. “I definitely had a couple of nightmares of me standing in the park all by myself,’’ she said.

That won't be the case. She said more than 1,000 people were registered for the event entering this week, and Komen has raised about $105,000. Total participation could approach 2,500, she said, and the group will raise close to $250,000. Runners, walkers and volunteers can register through race day.

“This first year was really about getting the word out and planting the seed for years to come,’’ Gutauskas said. “We encourage people to come down and see what it’s like. I think next year we’ll do even more than we did this year.”

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