The Ellen Hermanson Foundation will support its mission of ensuring that the East End community has access to state-of-the-art breast health care and empowering those impacted by cancer by hosting its 22nd annual Ellen’s Run on Sunday, August 20 at 9 a.m. at Southampton Hospital (265 Herrick Road, Southampton).
We recently caught up with Julie Ratner, President of The Ellen Hermanson Foundation, about this year’s 5K run/walk.
How has Ellen’s Run changed over the years?
JR: It’s gotten bigger and we have gotten more sophisticated and better at organizing it, certainly from the first year when I didn’t have a clue. I used to say to people because I was a runner, and you had a runner’s race, I knew how to show up at the start, but I didn’t have a clue about organizing a race. We’ve really gotten very good at it, and we have it down to a wonderful system. It runs very smoothly – we have a great team. In a way it’s different every year, but I think it hasn’t changed all that much though. We’ve been using the same race timer for nine years, we do it at Southampton Hospital, we know the drill. It’s different every year because you don’t know what the weather is going to be, and that’s a big factor on race day, certainly. Is it raining? Is it nice? Is it hot? Is it cool? And we need to be prepared for all of that.
When you started Ellen’s Run did you ever dream it would transform into what it is today?
JR: Not at all. When I started Ellen’s Run, this is our 22nd year, and the first year that I did Ellen’s Run it was something new. I met a woman in April of 1996, right after I completed my doctorate at Columbia and my sister-in-law said you need to meet this woman Vivian because she’s terrific and I think you’ll really like her. I’m telling her about my sister Ellen and she says, “You know, your sister sounds like a remarkable person. Why don’t you do something that would honor her memory?” And I said, “I’d really love to do that because she was too young when she died. I want my niece to always remember who her mother was. I need to think about what to do.” And she said, “No you don’t. You’re a runner. Let’s do a run.” And that’s exactly how it began. The next weekend I called people I knew to my house for brunch and I said I want to do a run in August – this was May so it gave us three months – in my sister’s memory, the money we raise we’ll keep here and we’ll figure out how we can support people with breast cancer. We really knew nothing. It was so undefined and it was kind of uphill because no one thought we could do it.
No one had heard of us, we didn’t have any credibility, so in a way I think that’s what’s changed the most because Ellen’s Run is pretty well known; people see the signs, they see the race applications. I think people are beginning to know that The Ellen Hermanson Foundation and Ellen’s Run are related – that they’re really one in the same, that the Foundation sponsors the run, and that we’re much more sophisticated about pushing our brand, which is The Ellen Hermanson Foundation.
We keep our money here in the community where it can do the most good. The needs are very great here. I was in California recently, and I was talking to someone about the Hamptons and the perception about the Hamptons is that the Hamptons is a very wealthy community. When I say that’s actually not so – there are a lot of hardworking people here, there are people who live really on the edge and there are people that need services, and there are food kitchens in the winter, there are food pantries – they’re shocked. Because you read People magazine or what’s on TV and you have this completely different image of the Hamptons.
So when I started Ellen’s Run I knew that there was great need, I knew the breast cancer rates were very high out here. I didn’t know the extent of need or the extent of how much suffering and pain there is or how much work there is to do in this area, but I found out very quickly, and because my sister was a wonderful advocate for other women with breast cancer and she wrote about it, I think she really would have approved of what we do and been in favor of our mission.
What about your hopes for the future of Ellen’s Run and the Foundation?
JR: I think about it often, and I think about succession. I want Ellen’s Run to grow. I want the Foundation to continue. I want it to be an even bigger brand. I want us to make more friends in the community that more people know about the important work that we do and will support the work that we do because it’s in everyone’s advantage to have a strong Southampton Hospital, to have a very strong Ellen Hermanson Breast Center, and when the Phillips Family Cancer Center is done to have a Cancer Center that can accommodate the needs of the people here because we need to have first rate care in our own community. My goal is that we continue to raise even more money and that we’re able to help even more people – women and men – because men do get breast cancer and we serve men as well as women. That would be my hope for the Foundation – that we continue to grow, we continue to be recognized in the community and that we make more friends and people understand what we do and support our mission.
The Ellen Hermanson Foundation will host Shine A Light on Cancer, a kick-off party for Ellen’s Run, on Thursday, August 17 at Revco (360 County Road 39A, Southampton) from 5 to 7 p.m. Admission is free and the event will feature drinks, bites, a 50/50 raffle and more.
For more information, or to register for Ellen’s Run, visit www.ellenhermanson.org.