By Contributing Writer - August 21, 2020
A lunch amongst friends Karen Dalton, Cathy Brainard and Sarita Charlton in 2005 inspired what we know today as Miles for Moffitt. Moffitt Cancer Center was celebrating its 20th anniversary, and Charlton was in her fifth year of survivorship. The trio, whom affectionately referred to themselves as the three amigas, knew they wanted to do something special to celebrate their friend and unite the community.
Dalton’s husband Dr. William Dalton was CEO of Moffitt at the time. Before they relocated to Tampa, they lived in Tucson, Arizona where her husband worked for a cancer center that hosted a popular race.
This sparked fireworks among the lunch bunch. The three amigas discussed the idea of recreating the event in Tampa and Charlton said, “let’s do it!”
Dalton dreamed of hosting a professionally timed event that would satisfy serious runners who were seeking an opportunity to win in their age bracket. Equally as important was the desire to present an inclusive, community event for non-runners including cancer patients, survivors and their families. The common theme: to raise funds for cancer research.
She had always been an avid walker, but never participated in an organized run or walk.
“I used to think you had to be a runner to participate in a 5K. But once I started doing the research to organize the race, I realized that anyone can walk a 5K,” Dalton said.
Not knowing exactly where to begin, Dalton enlisted help from her friend and running coach Lynn Gray.
“Each Saturday for eight weeks, we held a coaching clinic at Moffit,” Dalton said. “Each clinic included a health lecture followed by warm-up exercises, a walk or run on campus, then cool down and stretching exercises at the end of the session.”
The inaugural Miles for Moffitt races were held on April 8, 2006 on the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus. The event attracted more than 1,200 participants and raised $50,000 for cancer research. Nearly 15 years later, Miles for Moffitt has raised over $6.4 million and is a staple in the Tampa Bay community.
“In the early days, we gave out Miles for Moffitt engraved milestones instead of medals because once a person is diagnosed with cancer, every birthday, holiday and celebration in their life is a milestone,” Dalton said.
In 2012, Miles for Moffitt hit a milestone of its own raising more than $1 million since the event’s inception.
Two years later in 2014, Dalton found herself in an unfamiliar situation. She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Fortunately, it was caught early and was treated aggressively at Moffitt. This year, she celebrates six years of being cancer free.
Dalton and her family never miss an opportunity to participate in Miles for Moffitt. Each of her grandson’s made their first appearance at the race when they were months old.
The Dalton family team “Survivorsaurus-Lex” honors their grandson Alex who was diagnosed with leukemia at 16 months old. Alex, who loves dinosaurs, is beginning his third year of chemotherapy and will turn four in October. Dalton’s son Seth has also undergone his own battle with cancer. He was diagnosed with a GIST tumor four years ago.
These days, Dalton enjoys taking powerwalks with Pita, the family’s energetic rescue pup. The pair walk three to five miles, five days a week while listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, audio books or podcasts on her phone.
Family is forever and not even cancer can come between the Dalton family. Join them in their pursuit to help contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. Visit MilesForMoffitt.com to register for this year’s event.