Mourning her mother, running toward hope

Woman becomes stalwart of breast cancer cure race

October 04, 2002|By Jessica Blumberg | Jessica Blumberg,SUN STAFF

With 25,000 people expected to run in tomorrow's Race for the Cure, it's hard to pick out an individual face in the crowd. But behind the race numbers and pink ribbons, it's evident that Danielle Nicholson Smith has had a tremendous impact on the event and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Motivated by her mother's battle with breast cancer, Smith has become a devoted participant in the Maryland race, which raises money for breast cancer research.

An employee of T. Rowe Price Inc., Smith started the company's corporate team of runners in 1995 and has been its captain ever since.

Smith's mother, Patricia Nicholson, received her first diagnosis in 1982, another in 1993 and a third in 1998.

"I really wanted to do something tangible to honor my mom's struggle," Smith said.

Encouraged by T. Rowe Price and her co-workers, Smith recruited runners for the corporate team, winning the Maryland race's third-largest team award each year from 1997 through 2000.

In April of last year, Nicholson died. To cope with her grief, Smith put every effort into the 2001 race.

Smith rounded up 357 T. Rowe Price employees, winning first place for the largest corporate team last year.

"I kept thinking about how wonderful it was and how much my mom loved me," Smith said of the honor.

After tearfully accepting the award, she went to her mother's grave to show her the plaque.

"I wanted to show her that she had helped somehow," Smith said.

This year, T. Rowe Price's team has almost reached its goal of 500 runners, 17 of whom are breast cancer survivors.

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's work is a considerable part of Smith's motivation to run every year.

Every year on race day, Smith wears her mother's childhood locket, which still includes Nicholson's baby-teeth impression. As she steps up to the starting line, she thinks, "'Mama, I'm still trying to make you proud,'" she said.

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