On Saturday, Margaret Everett, 51, who is fighting cancer for the third time since her initial diagnosis in 2003, was the celebrity of the day and rode in a pace car at the front of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K race. Bystanders cheered as the car and race participants took off.

Many people chose to walk rather than run. They wore number tags on which they’d written a person they wanted to honor: moms, aunts, sisters and friends who have had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The race, now in its 20th year, brings together a sisterhood — and some of their brothers, too — of thousands every year, said Komen Baton Rouge Executive Director Angela Miller. This year’s crowd was estimated at 9,000.

“They connect in the heart,” Miller said. “There’s women they meet for the first time, and instantaneously, they’re just hugging ... They start to walk with each other through their journey.”

The race kicks off a 30-day fundraising period for Komen Baton Rouge, which hopes to raise $200,000 this year, Miller said. About 75 percent of that money stays in the Baton Rouge area to pay for free screenings and educational programs, plus assistance with treatments and prescriptions for those battling the disease. The rest funds research.