SAVANNAH'S QUILTED NORTHERN SOFT & STRONG® CHAMPION - ROBERT ESPINOZARobert Espinoza is the 2011 Quilted Northern Soft and Strong® Champion for the Komen Race for the Cure event in Savannah, Ga. on April 16. Espinoza is the race director for this event and is considered a "co-survivor" of breast cancer, standing by those in his family that have battled the illness.
Originally from San Diego, Calif., Robert spent much of his youth traveling as the son of a United States Marine. He settled down in Austin, Texas with his wife, Cookie, where he worked for a sporting goods store and coordinated local races and fitness events. Through this experience Robert discovered his passion for planning such events. When asked to participate with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®, Robert saw the opportunity to help and inspire others.
It came as no surprise to many that when Robert and his family moved to Savannah, he quickly became involved with the local Susan G. Komen® affiliate. As race director, Robert volunteers his time, working closely with the police department and other Savannah organizations to create not just the race course but an experience for participants on race day.
When asked what he enjoys most about his job, Robert said, "The people. Watching the people enjoy being out there. If we raise some kind of emotion, through the moment at hand during the race, then we did the right thing. To me the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® is not a race of adrenaline, but a race of emotions, that's what makes it special. That's the best part."
Robert has faced a battle with breast cancer in his own family. His mother, Olga Espinoza, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994. She battled the disease for nearly ten years and underwent countless rounds of chemotherapy. Olga found herself back under the supervision of her doctors several times after being released from care.
"[The cancer] just kept reoccurring," Robert said. "We got to the point where we never said 'cancer' free.'"
In 2004, cancer would claim her life, but Robert lives by her words, "Everything is going to be okay."
And the disease is impacting Espinoza's family again. Just a month ago, his sister, Dr. Paula Espinoza, was diagnosed with breast cancer as well.
"I remember quite well I didn't sleep at all. I was thinking 'here we go again.' I believe she will be an incredible role model not only [because she is] so smart, but for the wisdom and comfort she can bring to people." Espinoza will be by his sister's side as she begins her first round of chemotherapy.
Robert's advice for other men that share his role of being a "co-survivor" is to, "do your part," regardless of how small or insignificant or irrelevant you think it may be.
"I remember a woman [from a past race]," he said. "She ran 13 miles in the cold and rain." Robert presented her with a participation medal as she crossed the finish line. "I handed her the medal, and as she walked away I remember her looking up and hearing her say, 'yes!' And, that's what it's all about. You have to get into their lives and actually touch people. You'll be amazed at how much people remember your part."
Robert and Cookie have been married for 24 and are the proud parents of son, Alex, 20. He and his wife currently reside in Savannah.
Georgia-Pacific is proud to call Robert Espinoza a Quilted Northern Soft & Strong® Champion.