Three girls who participated in the MRFJ 5K in 2018 walking down a trail with their backs turned to the camera.
August 20, 2020 By Erika R. Whitehead

The Third Annual MRFJ 5K Begins Next Month!

The third annual Mesothelioma Race for Justice (MRFJ) 5K will take place virtually next month from September 1 to September 25. The highly anticipated race will serve as a tribute to National Mesothelioma Awareness Day, and proceeds will be donated to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF).

Public relations manager and union liaison, Mirela Kopier, has served as race director since the race began in 2018. For her, the goal was simple—to improve the lives of those diagnosed with mesothelioma and bring an end to the disease. During September, families and friends will have the opportunity to raise money for mesothelioma research. This legacy of community, support and giving is something that participants and sponsors look forward to annually.

“I grew up in a blue-collar household; my father was a mechanic, and my brother was a carpenter,” says Cathy Drescher, a former MRFJ sponsor and first-time participant this year. “We have been and continue to be excited to support the race and mesothelioma victims and their families.”

This will be the third consecutive year that proceeds from the MRFJ will be donated to MARF, one of the nation’s leading nonprofit foundations dedicated to eradicating the life-ending effects of mesothelioma. The organization was founded in 1999 by former Executive Director Christopher Hahn. MARF, also known as the Meso Foundation, is comprised of a network of patients, families, physicians, advocates and researchers who have been instrumental in awarding over $10.2 million to global projects. Proceeds from the first annual MRFJ exceeded $6,300. The following year, the amount doubled to over $15,000.

Edmund Sexton, a union member and returning participant, is excited to show his support again. “Last year was a nice time, a really good event,” he says. “[Kopier] helps out our union a lot, so I’m in a position where I can help out also.”

Planning this year’s race presented a unique challenge due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For Kopier, it was imperative that participants remain safe and healthy while supporting a worthy cause. “When the pandemic started, I wanted to continue the tradition because it was so important for us to raise money for MARF,” she says. “As the pandemic continued, I found it was vital to remind people that people are still being diagnosed with meso, and these funds are imperative for those patients.” 

According to MARF, pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma that patients are diagnosed with. It accounts for roughly 2,500 to 3,000 cases annually. Peritoneal mesothelioma is discovered in approximately 250 cases per year, followed by pericardial mesothelioma, which accounts for nearly five percent of all mesothelioma cases annually.

Although participants are encouraged to have fun and enjoy the race, we recommend that everyone follows CDC guidelines to protect themselves and others. For Drescher, she’ll enjoy a routine walk around her neighborhood. “This routine has encouraged me to challenge myself with an organized race like the MRFJ, and its virtual format lets me keep with the same routine in my neighborhood I’ve developed over the last few months.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Kopier remains motivated and committed to inviting everyone to donate to a worthy cause. Her goal is to ensure that race participants enjoy the experience as much as possible. “I hope people take away the satisfaction of having fun walking and running our little 5K while supporting those battling mesothelioma,” she says.

To register for the MRFJ or learn more information about it, please visit our website at or contact Mirela Kopier, race director, at 

We would like to offer our sincerest thanks to each of our sponsors this year. We are grateful for your continued support and your donations to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. We are looking forward to hosting an incredible event this year, and we are happy to be working with each of you! If you are interested in sponsoring the MRFJ 5K, please contact Mirela Kopier, race director, at

Lake County Building Trades & McHenry County Building Trades – The construction contractors listed have signed agreements with the Building Trades Unions and are in a position to offer their clients the most qualified workforce available. Members of the Building Trades are true craftsmen, dedicated to doing a quality job, on time and on budget.  We are committed to the constant improvement of our member’s skills and abilities. The Building Trades invest in its workforce by offering apprenticeship and training programs which include journeyman training and upgrading.