If she didn't know it before, Melanie Pfeiffer learned on June 10 just how warm and caring her community really is.
More than 140 participants were part of a 5-K run/walk/jog fundraiser on behalf of the Reno resident and Western Nevada College softball player who is battling melanoma skin cancer. The event raised $5,000 for Pfeiffer, who is without medical insurance. El Charro Avitia Restaurant in Carson City hosted the race venue and fed the participants afterward.
"This is an unbelievable community that we live in," said Bethany Henry-Herman, a volunteer assistant coach for the WNC softball program who advised Pfeiffer to have the odd-shaped growth on her arm medically examined. "The Reno-Carson-Minden area pulled together. So many individuals care for the community and the people in it, and it's real exciting to witness such a group effort."
Pfeiffer, a sophomore shortstop who just earned her Associate of Arts degree at Western Nevada, has been overwhelmed by the support and concern of others since learning she had cancer.
"It was really cool to see how many people came out and wanted to support, how many people came out to walk it and complete it for me," she said.
Pfeiffer ran the entire distance and after finishing, she walked back along the course to thank and encourage the remaining competitors.
"It was inspirational as I walked back with people telling me that they were doing this for me; it was really touching," she said.
But what really moved Pfeiffer was the number of unfamiliar faces giving their time and money to her cause.
"There were a lot of people I didn't even know who came up to me and said they were here because they wanted to support me. That shows what kind of community this is," Pfeiffer said.
Pfeiffer underwent surgery on June 1 to remove a cancerous mole from her right arm and ran with the arm strapped to her body. The graduate of Wooster High School in Reno has a background in distance running but said it had been a while since she ran 5 kilometers.
"I made it through, but it was difficult," she said.
The competitive Pfeiffer finished 14th out of 140-plus runners, according to WNC Assistant Softball Coach Rosie Contri. "She told us she had never walked a race, so she wasn't about to do it now," Contri said. "It was a awesome turnout from the community and all of the support she received."
The giving didn't end when the walkers and runners crossed the finish line. El Charro Avitia fed nearly 300 people for free, and the servers donated their time.
"The Avitia family is amazing; I couldn't have done it without them," Pfeiffer said. "They opened their restaurant and served free food. They closed down for the whole day, that was really great for them to do."
Pfeiffer will spend the summer rehabbing her right arm, which she can barely lift following surgery. She will also have follow-up visits to the doctor to determine the extent of the cancer in her body.
Henry-Herman said what Pfeiffer is going through has brought about more cancer awareness to the team and the community.
"It's been a real wakeup call for everyone. You don't think at a young age you can contract something like melanoma," Henry-Herman said. "We're going to be watching the sun a lot more clearly."
Donations can still be made through the Melanie Pfeiffer Medical Fund at any Bank of America.