It was out of tragedy that Charles Gorder was inspired to start a movement to illuminate and help counter the pervasive and dangerous role of melanoma. In 1993, he launched the Bruce Gorder 5K UC San Diego Walk for Melanoma in honor of his late son who lost a seven-year battle with the deadly skin cancer at age 37. Today, it is still the only 5K dedicated to raising funds for melanoma research in San Diego. The event has grown exponentially over the past two decades, garnering over $1.3 million to support melanoma research, treatment and education at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. This year the 21st Annual Gorder Walk will take place on Oct. 11.
The legacy of hope that has been kindled by the Gorder family over the past 20 years will continue to thrive as new event co-chairs Dani Murphy and Kristen Pascall take on the event leadership this year. Both are passionate advocates for melanoma awareness—both lost their husbands to the disease within the past several years, and have been actively involved in the walk committee ever since.
Murphy’s husband, Ron, was a high school teacher and head football coach at Grossmont High School. When he passed in 2012 at age 48 after battling melanoma for a year, Murphy turned to the Gorder Walk to be a part of something that could make a difference.
“The Gorder Walk creates an environment of togetherness where raising awareness and support is everyone’s common goal,” said Murphy. “It is beyond frustrating to hear people say, ‘It’s just skin cancer.’ My goal is to make this walk bigger and better than ever before, to increase knowledge of the disease. Ultimately, I look forward to the day when this walk is no longer necessary because a cure has been found!”
Pascall’s husband, Rick, who served as a San Miguel firefighter, was diagnosed with melanoma in 2008. Despite his weakened state, Rick took part in the Gorder Walk each year until he died, just three weeks after he attended the 2010 walk, at age 49. Kristen Pascall has been participating in his honor ever since, and found purpose and a voice by joining the walk committee.
“There is nothing I feel more strongly about supporting due to the incredible treatment, knowledge and compassion Rick received,” said Pascall, whose husband was treated at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. “As a co-chair this year, I want to reach people, especially youth, before it’s too late. Many do not become concerned unless it directly affects them, and I want to educate the community about the vital importance of early detection.”.
This year’s Gorder Walk will place special emphasis on dispelling the myth that melanoma only affects older adults. The deadly skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body and is one of the most common cancers in young adults, especially women. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 76,100 new cases will be diagnosed in 2014, claiming the lives of more than 9,700. The incidence of the disease has been increasing over the past 30 years, making events like the Gorder 5K Walk even more important as a vehicle to promote education and prevention.
“Anyone, regardless of age, can get melanoma and it is our goal to educate the next generation about sun protection and the importance of frequent skin screenings,” said Scott M. Lippman, M.D., director of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. “The Gorder 5K Walk for Melanoma is an important community event to increase melanoma education and awareness across the region.”
The walk is open to community members of all ages, and will wind participants through the scenic UC San Diego campus. Channel 10 News Anchor and cancer survivor Bill Griffith will return as master of ceremony to kick off the walk, and free skin screenings will be provided by local dermatologists.
Sign-in will begin at 8 a.m. at Moores Cancer Center, located at 3855 Health Sciences Drive on the UC San Diego east campus. The walk will begin immediately following Griffith’s welcome at 9 a.m., and will take participants on a loop through the campus. Participants will receive a free event visor while supplies last and a prize drawing entry for giveaways.
Registration is $25 for students with ID and $35 for all others. All proceeds go towards melanoma research, treatment and education at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. To register, please visit gorderwalk.ucsd.edu or call (858)-246-1570.