Julie Ratner Talks About Changes Wrought by Ellen’s Run

Ellen’s (5K) Run usually draws a field of close to 1,000. Nick Lemon (681) won the 2015 edition.

Ellen’s (5K) Run usually draws a field of close to 1,000. Nick Lemon (681) won the 2015 edition.

Dr. Julie Ratner, who 22 years ago launched Ellen’s Run — and later the Ellen Hermanson Foundation — in memory of her younger sister, who died of breast cancer at the age of 42, said during a conversation at The Star the other day that she wanted everyone on the East End to know that no one is ever turned away at the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Southampton Hospital.

She wanted them to know, moreover, that all the support services available to recently diagnosed patients and to survivors — including support groups led by a certified oncological social worker, Reiki therapy, yoga, and nutrition counseling — were free as well. 

Looking back on almost a quarter-century of fruitful work in an area that has a high incidence of the disease and many people who are struggling to make ends meet, Ratner said, “We’ve changed the medical landscape here.” 

The Breast Cancer Center, which is said to combine the rigor of a teaching hospital with the warmth of a support group, has been cited for its technological excellence by the American College of Radiology. The lion’s share of the money the foundation has raised — in the $4 million range at present — “has stayed here,” and Ellen’s (5K) Run, based at the hospital’s Parrish Memorial Hall, annually attracts 1,000-plus participants.

The race, which is to be contested on Sunday, was won last year by Gustavo Morastitla (the runner-up in the recent Jordan’s Run), in 16 minutes and 46 seconds. He’s about to enter his senior year at Southampton High School. The women’s winner was a fellow Southamptoner, Hannah Connolly-Sporing, in 19:08. 

“It’s nice to know you’re doing something fun and also doing something good at the same time,” Ratner said. “There’s so much heart and soul in the run. You have gung-ho runners, but you also have a lot who come because they’re breast cancer survivors, and they come with their families. Some are even in treatment. The exuberance and spirit and camaraderie is stunning to see.”

“This race is about not just surviving, but thriving and embracing life. For me, it continues the meaning of Ellen’s life and what she cared about so much. It gives added meaning to a life that was too short.”

The foundation, she added, was “very careful about how the money we raise is spent, and it’s most important to note that the money we raise will stay here. . . . This year we want to have the Breast Center purchase a new stereotactic breast biopsy table, a special and very expensive table that enables the doctor to perform a more accurate, less invasive, and more comfortable biopsy. This table, believe it or not, costs more than $200,000. We’re hoping we can come close to purchasing it this year, and we’d also like to provide specially built chairs for people receiving chemotherapy at the Phillips Family Cancer Center, which is to be built in Southampton, as well.”

Once built, within a year or so, the Phillips Center would, Ratner said, come as a great relief to those who at the moment have to fight the traffic five days a week over the course of six weeks to receive chemotherapy and radiation treatments in Commack or Riverhead.

“So, yes,” she said in parting, “we are going strong, but we try to keep it interesting by not doing the same thing every year. We’re changing our color this year, we have a new logo, our website has been redesigned, we have a development director, Anne Gomberg, who’s really creative, we’ve got more sponsors, which hopefully will translate into more money. . . . It’s a rebirth of sorts. We’re 22 years young, but we need new people coming in and new ideas. . . . I would love it if someday we were told we were no longer needed. That would be the best news.” 

Julie Ratner