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EVERYDAY PEOPLE: Organizing for a cure

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Damien Williams still thinks back to his mom and her battle with breast cancer nearly 17 years ago. Still affected and still envisioning a cure.

“My mom passed away on Dec. 23, 1995, after a 13-month battle with breast cancer,” said Williams, a native of Pillager. “I don’t think you realize what a big deal it is until it really hits home and someone close to you.

“It’s tough to think that people experience that, the whole battle. I watched my mom deteriorate over those 13 months and to be honest it wasn’t a good experience, in fact it’s pretty sad. But you just hope you can change it for the future.”

And for Williams, it gave him the opportunity to turn a negative experience in to a positive one.

Williams has been actively involved in the Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure for the past six years, beginning first with event set up and take down and traffic control until eventually heading as the operations director for the first time last year. A task that he admits has its challenges and requires an extra amount of organizational skills.

“My work for the event starts in early April and ends after the race in June,” said Williams, who admits he’s never had the chance to run in the Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure, but hopes to someday when he’s not busy organizing. “I work with a lot of great volunteers, who I start to round up and organize first, and then a lot of coordination goes in to it from there.

“I remember last year, my first year (as operations director) I didn’t sleep much at all. I kept thinking of all the items and making mental notes to make sure everything ran smoothly.”

Williams said there is a long list to do before the actual event in Brainerd — held this year on June 30 — including sign permits from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the city of Baxter, getting road closure signs and cones and organizing police to help with traffic control, among other things.

“There’s a lot of intricate details that have to come together for a four-hour event, it’s almost like planning a wedding really,” said Williams, who has four daughters with his wife Julia — Amelia, 9, Evelyn, 8, Marion, 5, and Caroline, 4.

“It’s like you work really hard for a couple of months, planning everything and preparing to make sure it will all go smoothly. And then it happens and it’s done and you think, ‘all right, I’m 11 1/2 months away from feeling like this again’ and it’s almost a relief once it’s done.

“But all of it is fun, from the tedious planning down to the event, it’s just great.”

A great event that he said he does in honor of his mom along with his grandmother and aunt who are recent survivors of breast cancer.

“I’m always doing this in memory of her. It’s why I got involved,” Williams said. “And I think she would be proud that I am doing this.”

This year’s 13th annual Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure will be June 30 at Forestview Middle School in Baxter. For more information on the event and how to get involved go to

JESSI PIERCE may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).