In 1997, Jon Hirshberg lost his father, Ronnie, to pancreatic cancer. Not wanting to sit back and grieve alone, Jon began planning our first 5K/10K race to honor his father’s memory and bring together other families who had lost loved ones to pancreatic cancer. His goal was simple: give the pancreatic cancer community a chance to honor loved ones, celebrate and support survivors, and create awareness about a disease that lacked research and funding.
Agi Hirshberg shared Jon’s commitment to eradicating this disease. After Ron’s passing, Agi wanted to donate to a program that focused on pancreatic cancer, but none existed. Rather than support general cancer research, Agi passionately forged ahead to create the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, the first pancreatic cancer foundation in the United States. She took on the challenge of driving research efforts as the first walk/run began raising funds.
Thus, the LA Cancer Challenge and the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research were established in the same year.
The inaugural event, called the Adidas Three Stripe Challenge, was held on October 25, 1998 in Century City, CA. Over 700 participants raised $35,000 and created a family of awareness makers telling the stories of those loved and lost in hopes that others will never have to endure the fight against pancreatic cancer.
In its second year, when it was called the FILA City Challenge, Lisa Manheim, Agi’s daughter, became Race Director. The following year the event moved to the West LA Veterans Administration Grounds and remained our venue for the next 15 years. Although the walk/run became the FILA Cancer Challenge in 2003, by 2005, the event’s identity was solidified as the LA Cancer Challenge (LACC) that we all know and love. In our 11th year the LACC broke the $500,000 fundraising milestone, and in year 13 we broke our own participation record with more than 4,150 participants.
Since 2016 the LA Cancer Challenge has been held on the beautiful campus of UCLA, where much of the Hirshberg Foundation’s research efforts have been focused. To date, the LA Cancer Challenge has raised over $10 million for pancreatic cancer research and patient services.
In 2022, the Hirshberg Foundation and LACC commemorated 25 years fighting pancreatic cancer. The event surpassed its fundraising goal and experienced its highest fundraising year since 2016. Participants in 30 states and 3 countries, united to support research and patient programs funded by the Foundation.
Today, as it was back in 1998, the LA Cancer Challenge is a day filled with love, hope and perseverance to find a cure. We remember those we’ve lost, share memories, stories, laughter and a few tears. It is a chance to recognize our accomplishments, offer hope to families facing a diagnosis, celebrate survivors who have beat the statistics and continue to pave the path towards a cure. It is a day we are reminded to Never Give Up: Finding a Cure is Worth Fighting For!