What started out as an idea by Erin Pikul to “walk around the Square a couple times” has snowballed into a charity event – one that raised $27,000 last year and is slowly becoming a Wilkes-Barre St. Patrick’s Day Parade staple.
The Renal Race 3 will take place on Sunday, March 16 at 9 a.m., and the event hasn’t stopped growing since its inception.
It began when Pikul’s husband Frank was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2010, the couple staying silent as he underwent treatment. When the cancer came back in late 2011, Pikul decided she needed an outlet and a way to help Frank, so she began to organize a walk among friends for the morning of the Wilkes-Barre parade.
That first year, around 400 people showed up and raised $20,000. Last year, with the inclusion of a 5K race in addition to a walk, the number went up to 600, and the money made topped $27,000.
“We have been very, very lucky,” Pikul said. “Each year it’s gotten better. Of course, now I worry about topping it this year, but what I’ve really learned is that it’s not about that; it’s just about raising money for the cause.”
The Renal Race has two different routes, for walkers and runners, both of which can be found at therenalrace.org. This year, Pikul said Genetti’s in Wilkes-Barre has been kind enough to help the race out in a big way.
“The last two years we’ve been outside and we’ve been lucky that bad weather didn’t happen until after everything was over,” Pikul said, “but this year, that’s not a concern at all. Genetti’s is awesome enough to let us use their ballroom, so everything will be housed inside this year – registration, awards, raffles.”
Another change to this year’s event is chip timing for racers, which will allow them to arrive at the platform post race and see their actual time.
“The city is so receptive to us,” Pikul said of the race’s success. “It’s been great.”
Pikul also hopes to give back to the city in bringing so many people downtown.
“Last year, we had people from seven states here,” she said. “It was nice for them to see the area for the first time, or come back after not being here a while. We like that we can bring people downtown to the businesses.”
The moral support that comes from the crowds of racers and those donating has been wonderful for the Pikul family, which also includes four-year-old son Jackson. Pikul said Frank is doing just fine.
“He is doing really well. It’s one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, but he’s been doing really well for the past four years. While he lives with it, it’s not growing right now, so we’re really lucky.”
The coolest thing to come out of this experience for both Pikul and Frank, however, is how they’ve watched it influence Jax.
“We order our t-shirts every year, and the kids in school with him are getting them, and they’ll all wear them the same day,” Pikul said. “The school will have a dress-down day and raise money. Jackson doesn’t even know it, but he’s already raising money to help.
“It’s cool, because you can never be too young to start.”