On Saturday, October 2 of this year, Park Square Plaza in Lithia will host the fourth annual Your Next Step is the Cure 5K which is a race for ocular melanoma research.

For the first time, Park Square Plaza in Lithia will be host to a popular fundraiser this fall. The fourth annual Your Next Step is the Cure 5K is a race for ocular melanoma research that will take place on Saturday, October 2.

Ocular melanoma (OM) is an extremely rare form of cancer that affects the eye with an incidence of five per million adults. Although rare, it is the most common primary cancer of the eye in adults. Primary means that the cancer began at that site, in this case the eye, and did not spread there from another part of the body.

The race directors for the 5K event are Bernadette Boyle and Linda O’Brien. Bernadette and O’Brien both have personal reasons for their passion for this event because both women have a strong connection to OM.

Bernadette’s husband, Joe Boyle, was diagnosed with OM in January 2008 and in the summer of 2011. Joe and Bernadette learned of the metastasis from a routine PET scan that he had yearly. Joe lost his battle to metastatic ocular melanoma in January 2016.

O’Brien’s diagnosis of ocular melanoma also occurred in January 2008; O’Brien continues to have routine scans and eye exams, but thankfully her cancer is still NED (No Evidence of Disease).

“Our decision to organize a 5K started back in 2017 once we learned that the Melanoma Research Foundation’s Miles for Melanoma was not going to be held in the Tampa area,” Bernadette said. “Up to this point, we, along with family and friends, created a Florida CureOM team for the Miles for Melanoma events. Linda and I saw a need to continue with this mission, raise funds for research and bring awareness to ocular melanoma.”

In November 2017, the women held their first 5K at E.G. Simmons Park in Ruskin.

“We continued holding events in 2018 and 2019 each year, adding on more registrants and increasing the dollars raised,” Bernadette said. “Unfortunately, like so many other race events, the 5K event was cancelled for 2020.”

The 5K will take place at Park Square Plaza on October 2 from 8 a.m.-10 a.m. The cost to participate is $30 plus the $2.50 registration fee. The cost goes up to $35 after Tuesday, August 31.

“We are extremely excited about this year’s 5K event because one of the biggest changes is the location,” Bernadette said. “Linda and I decided to bring it to FishHawk. Living in FishHawk, I feel this brings this event full circle, a place where Joe and I lived and where he was an active community member.”

If you would like to participate in this year’s 5K, you can register for the race at www.runsignup.com/Race/FL/Lithia/YourNextStepistheCure or contact Bernadette at yournextstepisthecure@aol.com.

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Libby is a writer for The Osprey Observer/The Christian Voice. She started as an intern in 2009 and upon finishing her internship, she was asked to stay on as a permanent writer for both papers. Libby lives in Brandon with her two rescue dogs, Olive and Bogey.