Virtual Steps to Save Lives 2020 supporting Esophageal Cancer Action Network (ECAN)
Virtual Steps to Save Lives 2020

About Virtual Steps to Save Lives 2020

In an age of social distancing, ECAN can't host the series of in-person 5K events we planned.  


Our 2020 Steps to Save Lives Virtual 5K Run, Walk or Roll will be a fun and effective way to fight Esophageal Cancer.  

Even though we won’t be running on the same course – we will be on the same track: ​
our efforts will raise awareness and much-needed funding to fuel our quest to reach the day when nobody has to die of Esophageal Cancer!

WHO: Anyone can join – whether you are a runner, jogger, walker, or roller in a chair with wheels.  When you register, you’ll have the chance to set up your own fundraising page, with your story and pictures or videos, and all of the support to make your efforts to gain support for the fight against Esophageal Cancer effective.  You can even form teams and gather your crew together in this fight!  We have prizes for reaching various fundraising milestones and very cool ones for the individual and team that raises the most - including an exclusive gift from our partners at the Estate of Humphrey Bogart!

WHAT: You will run, walk, or roll in your chair to cover 5K (or 3.1 miles). Everyone who registers will receive their event t-shirt, racing bib, medal, and goody bag through the mail. 

Our Virtual 5K allows you to cover that distance at any time from 2 pm EST on Sunday, October 18th until 2 pm on Sunday, October 25th.  We will kick off this special week with our online opening ceremonies at 2 pm on Sunday, October 18th. For competitive runners, we are using an honor system, so you’ll just enter your time through our online form any time from October 18th – October 25th at 10 am EST. First, second and third place winners will be recognized with medals in both men’s and women’s categories based on age. And the men and women who have the top three times overall will also get special awards.  Those winners will be announced during our online closing ceremony at 2 pm on Sunday, October 25th.

WHERE: Any location that is convenient for you!

WHEN: You can cover the distance at any time between Sunday, October 18th at 2 pm EST until Sunday, October 25th at 2 pm.

WHY: Because you want to end Esophageal Cancer!  You will fuel the fight against this devastating disease with your participation.  Every dollar you raise will raise awareness of the link between acid reflux and Esophageal Cancer, promote Early Detection to Prevent Cancer before it Starts, fight for increased funding for medical research to find treatments to prevent, detect, treat and cure Esophageal Cancer. You will also provide trustworthy, useful educational programming and support for patients and families at risk for Esophageal Cancer.  If you need some tips on how to be successful in your fundraising efforts, we've got them for you right here!

HOW: By taking Steps to Save Lives! For those who may need a little boost to prepare to go the distance, ECAN has partnered with the folks at Couch to 5K to give you the support you may need.  We have week-by-week guidance, an online support community, and a even a special playlist to help you reach peak condition to finish the race!

Join our Opening Ceremony this Sunday, October 18th at 2 pm Eastern on the ECAN Facebook page or register to watch it through Zoom at We will have an inspirational message from Stephen Bogart, son of Hollywood icons Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, learn about some of our participants, and find out the difference you are making by taking these Steps to Save Lives!


Starts at:  October 18, 2020 1:00 PM
Ends at:  October 25, 2020 1:00 PM




Paige Kelly


A husband and father of two young children, Matt Sweeney had experienced heartburn for most of his life. But in the fall of 2017, it seemed worse, like something wasn't right. After the prescription for heartburn meds that his doctor provided didn't help, Matt and his wife Jen pushed for further testing. In December 2017, Matt was diagnosed with Stage III Esophageal Cancer. He was 41 years old.

​ Early the next year, Matt began grueling chemoradiation treatment at Jefferson Hospital that lasted for six weeks. Then, on May 2, 2018, he underwent an esophagectomy, radical surgery to remove his esophagus and pull up his stomach. By June, Matt was well enough to drive his kids to school. In August of 2018, he began participating in a yearlong clinical trial at the Fox Chase Cancer Center that is studying immunotherapy. 

On October 14, 2018, he participated in the ECAN Philadelphia Steps to Save Lives 5K. For the pre-cancer Matt, that wouldn't have meant much. He had run in a marathon and regularly took ten miles runs prior to his diagnosis. But finishing the Steps to Save Lives 5K in 2018 was an achievement. He's built on that – and not just in terms of his running stamina. In 2019, Matt and Jen served as co-chairs of the Philly Steps to Save Lives 5K, an event that brought more than 150 ECAN supporters together to fight this devastating disease. They were on track to do the same for 2020 – until 2020 became a year that wouldn’t allow for in-person events. 

Now that ECAN has pivoted to host a virtual 5K, the Sweeneys have stepped up to take an important leadership role as co-chairs for our virtual event! 

Fighting Esophageal Cancer ~ Saving Lives!

ECAN was created with the primary goal to raise awareness of the risk of Esophageal Cancer posed by persistent heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (known as GERD).  ECAN launched the first Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month effort in 2009 and since then, governments, businesses and other organizations throughout the nation have recognized April as Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month year after year! 

But we know an effective battle with this devastating disease must be fought on several levels.  While increased awareness remains a primary focus, working to increase funding for research and educating patients about their options for prevention, early detection and treatment has become a priority.  ECAN has successfully led the charge for millions in additional federal research funding and has become a trusted and reliable source for the latest in medical research affecting those at risk for Esophageal Cancer.

About Esophageal Cancer

Deadly: One 1 out of 5 patients diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer in the US will survive 5 years  | Esophageal Cancer is the #7 Cancer Killer of Men in the United States  | Most is discovered at late stages, when treatment is rarely successful.​

Most Often Caused by Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Most EC in the US is Esophageal Adenocarcinoma (74%) caused by Reflux Disease  | Esophageal Adenocarcinoma increased 700% over the past 35 years in the U.S.  | Esophageal Adenocarcinoma is the fastest increasing cancer among American men  | Squamous Cell Carcinoma which is usually linked to smoking or drinking causes 26%.

Preventable: Barrett’s Esophagus is the only known precursor to Esophageal Adenocarcinoma  | Barrett’s Esophagus is caused by GERD, but the condition itself causes no symptoms  | Barrett’s Esophagus can be treated and eliminated, thereby preventing progression to Esophageal Cancer  | More than a Million Americans Estimated to be Unaware they Have Barrett’s Esophagus.

Largely Ignored: Lack of Awareness - Only 14% of Americans know that GERD can lead to cancer  | Lack of Screening - No Esophageal Cancer screening protocol in the U.S.  | Lack of Research Funding - Esophageal Cancer causes 2.6% of US cancer deaths, but receives just .5% of the Federal Cancer Research Budget.

Thanks to our generous sponsors