Panerathon makes a return to Youngstown after a year

By Sydney Stalnecker 

The Panerathon is back in Youngstown after a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19, just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The event, which supports the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center, will take place Oct. 3.

Phoebe Breckenridge, the director of marketing for JAC Live and JAC Management Group, has been involved with Panerathon since 2017, when she interned with Mercy Health while attending Youngstown State University. While she was an intern, she organized sponsors and volunteers for the event.

“This will be the 12th annual Panerathon,” Breckenridge said. “We’re just so happy to build on the momentum from the last eleven years.”

As in previous years, all profits from the Panerathon will go to the Mercy Health Foundation of Mahoning Valley and JACBCC in Youngstown.

“When Panerathon started, it was actually part of the fund that helped build the Joanie Abdu. It was through a partnership with iHeart Media and their relationship with Dr. Abdu that sort of birthed this cause,” Breckenridge said. “There are Panerathons other places, this is just the cause we choose in this area because of the relationship with Dr. Abdu and Mercy Health.”

According to the Panerathon’s website, Joanie Abdu died 15 months after being diagnosed with Breast Cancer on June 2, 1994. Before her death, her husband promised to make “a world class breast care center in her honor.” Less than 20 years later, the JACBCC opened in 2011 and has won many awards locally and nationally.

“This center provides this service to all kinds of people including women who may not be able to afford it, which really breaks down the barrier of access to mammograms and other treatment that are so important for women to have access to,” Breckenridge said.

In previous years, the race has been held in August, but due to COVID-19 it has been pushed to October.

“Oct. 3 is kind of a happy coincidence because of things getting shifted around with COVID,” Breckenridge said. “We’re so excited to be tied in with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

A 10K and 2-mile race will be held the day of the event. Both races start at the Covelli Center. The 2-mile race goes through YSU while the 10K runs through downtown and Mill Creek Park.

“There is a 10K fun run/walk, we emphasize that while the 10K is timed, there are competitive runners of course, but everyone’s welcome and they’re welcome to walk the course as well,” Breckenridge said. 

Participation in the Panerathon is expected to decrease this year due to the number of those still hesitant to involve themselves in public events with the ongoing pandemic.

“We hope to have between 5-7,000 [participants]. Typically, we get up to 10,000, but we know some people are a little hesitant still with COVID,” Breckenridge said. “We will be taking every precaution to keep the event safe.”

There will be no virtual option for participants — the event is in-person only. YSU students are encouraged to get involved by running solo, joining a team or volunteering. The 10K and 2-mile races cost $25 for individuals and $20 for teams. There is a slight increase in price for sign-up on the day of the race.

“We love to have YSU students out. There is always a YSU megateam,” Breckenridge said. “We also accept volunteers. We have many different volunteer opportunities.”

Panerathon race registration and volunteer sign-up form is available at