Clouds of pastel smoke wafted over the Wayne Community College campus early Saturday morning, as walkers and runners passed through --or around, if they didn't want to get bombed by the powdered paint-- paint stations during the annual Cures for the Colors event, a fundraiser for cancer patients through Southeastern Cancer Care.
This year marked the first for the "Color Run," with participants able to get splashed with an FDA-regulated powder paint.
Traycee Williams said she had already strolled through four of the paint stations, "on purpose," she said.
"I want to save my shirt," she said.
She was participating in the individual 5K walk/run, along with fellow breast cancer survivor Patti Gordon.
"I'm actually kind of a poster child for early detection," said Gordon, diagnosed in 2014. "They couldn't stage it because it was so small, and I hadn't had a mammogram in three years before that."
The women were enjoying not only the crisp morning temperatures but where they are in their own journeys.
The walk gave them ample opportunity to reflect on their survivorship, as well as others who have battled the disease or continue to be in the fight.
Gordon lost her sister this past October to ovarian cancer, she said.
But there are still things to be thankful for, the friends said.
"This (event) is something joyful," Williams said. "Spending time on joyful events is how I want to live."
"I'm taking advantage of every minute that offers something good," added Gordon.
In addition to timed and untimed races, as well as a one-mile fun run, there was a team 5K.
Katie Williams of Daniels and Daniels Construction Company said the company has sponsored the event every year.
"This year we got a team of 12," she said, explaining that each of them had their own reasons for being there, mostly friends and loved ones going through treatments previously or currently.
Stephanie Bostic was poised for the team 5K, as part of the team from Goldsboro Pediatrics.
She already had red and blue paint on her white shirt before that event even began.
"They gave us packets (of paint). I guess we all just threw them all over," she explained.
When asked if she would be walking or running the course, she combined the two and said "rocking."
Different vendors were on hand, providing information and resources, or a special addition like the Post Race Recovery booth. It offered hydration, snacks, ice packs and free massage-related services.
"We're here basically pre- and post-run -- massaging, icing," said Meredith Kelly, a physical therapist at Wayne UNC Orthopedic, as she applied a roller down the length Meredith Wimberly's leg. "Just to kind of help the muscles recover or get ready for the race.
"And encouragement -- we give verbal encouragement as well."
Wimberly was appreciative of the free service and said she might be returning after the race.
She was all stretched out for the course but the massage treatment was a nice touch, she said.
"It's getting out the kinks," she said.
This marked the eighth year for the event, the first for the color run, a fitting visual for the Cures for the Colors, said organizer Dr. James Atkins of Southeastern Medical Oncology Center.
The occasion is important for many reasons, in addition to the fundraising element that provides needed financial support for patients facing mounting medical bills.
"I think that the critical thing is the community coming together, the camaraderie," he said.
The event has grown over the years, he said, and there have been some changes, like government regulations forcing organizers to drop the popular lantern release.
"That was very hard," he said of the move, as it, too, was a "healing thing" for many.
The inaugural year, Cures for Colors consisted of a 100-mile run, the longest run for cancer in America, Atkins said. Smaller local versions have been held in subsequent years, but all share the common theme of physical activity.
"Basically, activity is very important to prevent cancer and take care of their symptoms," he said.
A staunch advocate for cancer care and a proponent of clinical trials, Atkins said if he were to run for president, he already has his campaign platform in mind -- get rid of recliners, TV and salt shakers. All of those, he explained, contribute to overweight and unhealthy behaviors.
Dr. Samer Kasbari, also of Southeastern Cancer Care, operating a drone to capture an aerial view of some of the day's events, was very pleased with the turnout.
"By 9 a.m. Friday, we had 900 registered," he said. "We ran out of shirts."
He and Atkins were confident that when all was said and done, more than 1,000 had converged on the campus for the 2018 event.