Still trying to catch the cure

(from left to right) Kay Jensen, Ellen Nakata and Susan Calhoun of Team T&C talk about this year
(from left to right) Kay Jensen, Ellen Nakata and Susan Calhoun of Team T&C talk about this year's Race for the Cure.
— image credit: Brad Camp/ Staff Photo

Final year of on-site registration, but Team T&C will keep moving.

Every year, local Race for the Cure organizers say, the handmade quilt that is raffled off on behalf of Team Town & Country miraculously goes to someone whose life has been touched by cancer.

This gives Su Reith enormous satisfaction, especially when someone enters the raffle only because they’d like a pretty new quilt for their bed.

“Well, sorry, you’re not winning,” she says to herself. “Because your reason isn’t good enough. Boop! It’s like divine intervention.”

Reith, along with quiltmaker Susan Calhoun and Team T&C co-chairs Kay Jensen and Ellen Nakata, have joined year after year to gather islanders into a thriving Bainbridge contingent for the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure, held each June in Seattle.

Along with the quilt, which makes the rounds through area T&C family stores and generates roughly $6,000 each year, a cornerstone of Team T&C’s ongoing fundraising effort has been on-site race registration at the Bainbridge store and at Central Market in Poulsbo.

People have been known to cross the water from Seattle each year just to become part of this local effort, but this year will be the final opportunity for on-site registration. Starting next year, all race registration will be online.

Which is a mixed bag, Jensen and crew said. Fifteen years has turned on-site registration into an institution.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, Nakata attended a Komen Foundation event in Seattle and came away inspired to form Team T&C along with her late husband, Don. The stores offered a natural community hub, the Nakatas thought, that could raise general awareness of breast cancer and encourage larger numbers of people to get involved. Over time, their reasoning proved increasingly sound; Team T&C registration peaked at 1,041 people in 2001, the year Don died.

By that time, Team T&C had merged with Team Bainbridge, which is where Jensen started out. She recalled one year when Don Nakata came over and introduced himself to her and her team members on race day.

“You know, I’m really glad to meet you,” he said. “And I’m really sorry we’re here.”

That’s the core of the matter for Jensen, Nakata and crew. It seems that every year, they know more and more people who have or know someone who has breast cancer.

“We’ve always said we would like not to have to come back,” Jensen said. “We would like to be completely out of business.”

Jensen added that she was unprepared for how melancholy she feels about the end of on-site registration; she, Nakata, Calhoun and Reith joked that maybe they should set out tables next year anyway, just to keep the community spirit going, and to keep a human face on a disease that doesn’t seem to be going away.

“For all the hoop-de-do and everything, there are still people with notches on their hearts,” Jensen said.

Race to T&C

On-site registration for Race for the Cure’s Team Town & Country takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and tomorrow at Town & Country on Bainbridge and at Central Market in Poulsbo. Raffle tickets for this year’s quilt, “Challenges,” are also at the markets. Register online at; search for “Team Town & Country.”

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