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A record 5,000 or so participants are expected when the eighth annual MeStrong 5K takes place in Downtown DeLand Saturday, Feb. 2. The event also is expected to push the charity over the $1 million mark in funds raised since the first event in 2012.

MeStrong, formed to honor a DeLand woman who was fighting cancer, now helps many people who are battling the disease.

The walk/run begins on East Indiana Avenue around 8 a.m., takes a circuitous course through the Stetson University campus and Northwest DeLand, and finishes on West Indiana Avenue.

MeStrong was created by four close friends of Linda Ryan, after Ryan received a diagnosis that cancer had returned in 2011, said one of the friends, Kim Winters. The other founders are Kathy Guyer, Barbara Underhill and Kim Martin.

“She was very much an avid runner,” Winters said. “So we decided to host a 5K in her honor. Linda was thrilled, but didn’t want it to be all about her — she wanted to get the whole community up and moving.”

That inaugural event was much more successful than the women could have imagined.

“We hoped to get at least 300 people to show up, so we could cover expenses, and we ended up with nearly 1,000,” Winters said. “We had money left over, so we decided to help more people and started a nonprofit several months later.”

That 501(c)(3) nonprofit, called simply MeStrong, is headed by the five women, who volunteer their time and talents.

All funds raised by the annual 5K event help support community members and their families.

None of the five women gets paid, and Ryan has never gotten any money, Winters said.

The organization helps with paying cancer patients’ household expenses.

Cancer patients can apply through the website mestrong.net and, if approved, MeStrong will pay the creditors directly. No funds go directly to the patients, Winters said.

More than 100 businesses and organizations are sponsoring this year’s event, led by Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute and Hudson Technologies, each of which donated $15,000, Winters said.

Anyone interested in participating can sign up the morning of the event, beginning at 6:30 a.m. at the finish line on West Indiana Avenue.

Day-of registrations cost $40 for adults and $30 for children age 18 and younger.


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