Breast cancer survivor Katie Mangan has made it her mission to help other women fighting the disease. Mangan’s charity, Katie’s Crusaders, holds an annual walk/run event in Waukee to raise money and donates the proceeds to women fighting breast cancer and their families. Since its inception in 2009, Katie’s Crusaders has raised more than $100,000 to benefit women with breast cancer, including Mangan. This year’s race will take place Sept. 28. To sign up or to donate, visit

Tell me about your fight with breast cancer.

In April 2009, while taking a shower, I felt a fairly decent-sized lump. I had just finished breast-feeding Hannah, so I thought it could be a clogged milk duct. I made an appointment, and my doctor wanted to check it out just in case. I went in for a mammogram, and they decided to take a biopsy on May 4. On May 6, I found out that I had breast cancer. Because of its size (it was 8 centimeters), they wanted to try to shrink it before doing any kind of surgery. We started chemotherapy on Memorial Day weekend that year, and I got my last round on July 4 weekend. After the chemo, I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy and went in for surgery on July 15. After the surgery, we found out that the chemo had been very successful – I went from a Stage 3 to a Stage 0, which means it shrunk the cancer down to almost nothing. … In 2010, we began the reconstruction process. Altogether, it was about a 1 ½-year process.

How did the idea behind Katie’s Crusaders come about?

When I was diagnosed, I was staying home because we had a new baby. I started an in-home day-care center for some of the teachers I worked with, but when you work for yourself, there is no disability, there is no insurance or sick days for when you have doctor’s appointments. My friends wanted to help with our out-of-pocket expenses that insurance doesn’t cover. For instance, I lost all of my hair and I needed a wig, just so I could feel normal again, but they are $300 and my insurance didn’t cover it. They started planning a 5K race for September, and all the proceeds were donated to my family. About 350 people showed up for the walk, which started at St. Boniface Church in Waukee and ran through Glynn Village (subdivision). People loved it. They were telling me they had a blast and we raised $10,000. Afterward, and after a lot of deep thought, I wanted to pay it forward. We turned Katie’s Crusaders into a 501(c)(3) in 2010 and were able to help three families and raised $17,000. In 2012, we helped four families and raised $23,000. And in 2012, we raised $50,000 and helped six families.

What’s in store for the race this year?

We are hoping to help another six families this year. Right now, we have three. There are so many families that feel like they don’t need help, and I tell them that this isn’t just financial support; it is emotional support. We’ve been through this. And it’s not just me talking with other women with cancer. My husband watched his wife go through it; my aunt, who is on the board, watched a niece go through it. We have gotten to know the crusaders from the last three years on a very personal level.

What future plans do you have for the race?

I want to continue to grow the race – I would love to see it become too big for Waukee. Komen (Race for the Cure) comes to mind because it takes up so much of downtown. I would love to be able to help as many families we can, and for families to come for financial help even outside of race time. Like if a family needed help in December to buy a wig or to pay a credit card bill, we could be there for them. I’d also like to grow it to two events a year, a spring and a fall race, to help two sets of crusaders, but that’s a little way down the road.

I would also love for this to grow into my full-time job. Right now, we give as much as possible to families in need, so this is all 100 percent run on volunteers. To get there, we just need more people to know about us. So many people know about (Susan G. Komen for the Cure) and Relay for Life. But there’s not a lot of organizations out there like us; we write the checks directly to the families and they can decide how to spend the money. Because when you are fighting cancer, and your TV breaks or your washing machine breaks, it makes the fight so much harder.