Jared Diem, of Breezy Point, and Sue Beck, of Brainerd, know cancer all too well. He has lost people he has loved to the disease while she is a breast cancer survivor.

Diem and Beck are the honorary co-chairs of next summer’s 21st annual Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure at Pequot Lakes High School.

“I was really surprised to get the great, great honor. There are so many other people in our community who are more deserving,” Diem said. “I was very humbled by this. … This race is near and dear to my heart.”

The June 27, 2020, fundraiser aims to raise awareness about the disease, celebrate cancer survivorship and honor those who have lost their battle to the disease.

“The reason why I started running … a friend of mine was running the race … and when you see all of these women who have survived cancer, and they tell their stories - what they have gone through - these women are the exemplification of true strength,” Diem said.

Participants in the Race for the Cure may run the 5K, walk the 5K or 1K course, or simply step over the finish line for the Zero K. Special races for 2-10 year olds will take place on the track.

“I was just moved by their strength physically, emotionally ... and their strength was just amazing to me,” said Diem, a Brainerd second-grade teacher and father of four.

Commemorative T-shirts will be awarded to all with refreshments and sponsor giveaways at the expo following the run/walks, including a special tent just for survivors. (Those who cannot attend may choose the Sleep in for the Cure category instead.)

“I decided to make a T-shirt for myself … and I just wrote down all the people on the back who I know, some of them are my friends - dear friends - that have lost people to cancer or who have family members who are going through all different types of cancer,” Diem said.

The 44-year-old has been running in the race for six years, so a lot of people recognize his shirt, said Diem, a former Brainerd High School volleyball coach who along with parents and other coaches raised more than $15,000 for the Pink Ribbon Cupboard during his time as coach.

“Unfortunately, some people on that shirt have passed away since then from cancer … and it just hits me deep,” Diem said. “These are people that I really care about … so I try to get the word out for people who are suffering and need help.”

Pink Ribbon Cupboard funds are used to support patients undergoing active treatment for breast cancer. The nonprofit offers emergency assistance for non-medical needs and expenses that are a direct result from having a serious medical condition.

“If somebody is in treatment for breast cancer, if they are experiencing financial difficulties - which is not unusual because you have to take time off for chemo, radiation or whatever - we can assist that patient with some of their bills,” Beck said.

“It might be gas cards to get to radiation, it might be grocery cards - maybe a mortgage or a rent payment - whatever it is they need in order to just make treatment go a little bit more smoothly for them. We don’t do medical bills, but we can do lots of other things,” she said.

Beck is an 11-year survivor of breast cancer and a participant in the Race for the Cure for many years. The 69-year-old is a co-founder of the Pink Ribbon Cupboard, which was started in 2010.

“My cancer was discovered by a routine mammogram, so I strongly encourage people to make sure they get that every single year faithfully,” said Beck, who underwent almost six months of chemotherapy and had a mastectomy.

The funds raised make potentially lifesaving services and programs possible such as free mammograms and diagnostics, preliminary medical treatment for qualified breast cancer patients who cannot afford care, support services and breast cancer education.

The Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure goal is to raise $250,000. Up to 75% of net proceeds are used for local programs like those mentioned above, with 25% used to fund breast cancer research, according to Susan G. Komen officials.

For more information about the Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure, visit www.komenminnesota.org and type “Brainerd lakes” in the search box.