Prison inmates cheered as Richard Santana crossed the finish line on a dirt track at Southern Desert Correctional Center, winning the prison's first-ever Race for the Cure 5K run.
The 34-year-old, who is doing time for burglary, led 26 other prisoners braving an unforgiving sun and 90-degree temperatures Sunday to raise more than $6,500 for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Mainstream Americans participated in the annual fund-raising run on Saturday.
"We're very fortunate," Santana said afterward in a visiting room, where he showed his first-place certificate to his mother and three aunts.
"We have a lot of opportunities. These men are doing something out of their own hearts," he said of the inmates. "They don't need to do that. It's very admirable."
Most of the money raised came from wages earned at prison jobs and from personal pledges, said James Cox, warden of the medium-security prison about 40 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
About 10 corrections officers kept an eye on the prison yard while Cox and other prison administrators watched the race in the recreation yard with about 500 inmates wearing Race for the Cure T-shirts but no shackles.
The Las Vegas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People conceived of the idea for prison race. Chapter 558 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, based at the prison, helped organize it.
About 40 inmates signed up for the 3.1-mile run, but only 26 competed under the exhausting conditions. The oldest runner was inmate Larry Young, a 66-year-old former Army master sergeant and Vietnam veteran.
About 150 inmates chose the less-challenging one-mile walk. The majority of inmates who raised money, dubbed "Phantoms," stood by to cheer on the rest.
"It's beautiful; it gives the men the opportunity to relax," a sweat-drenched Young said after the race. "Give these men an opportunity to give back to the community."
Cox said the event reduces tensions by bringing inmates and staff together for a common cause.
"I've got no reason to say we won't be doing this next year," the warden said.
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