It was after competing in a women’s off-road race dedicated to breast cancer awareness that a single 39-year-old mother from Temecula decided to get herself checked out.
“They found three huge tumors,” said Julie Pierce. “I never felt them.”
Pierce, now 40 years old, underwent a radical mastectomy in February 2013 but not without complications.
For the mother of three children—ages 18, 16 and 14—the light at the end of the tunnel was to get well enough to compete in the powder puff race again.
Off-roading for years has been a big part of Pierce’s lifestyle. A registered nurse, she worked as a race medic for five years in addition to competing as a Class 8 driver in her Ford F-150. Her children have often been her co-drivers.
But when she learned the annual Barstow event was canceled, she set out to organize her own at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino.
The event was successful, and Pierce said upon the suggestion of the track owner, she set out to start a nonprofit organization for the purpose of holding a series of charitable and affordable races for the desert-racing community of Southern California.
“This has been a huge wake-up call, you figure out what is important in life,” Pierce said.
“When God gives you a second chance you want to give back to God, you want to do good things for others. To give back is my primary mission in life right now.”
Founded in November 2013, the 501c3 organization is called FORE, which stands for Family Off-Road Racing Enthusiast. Members of its governing board of directors each have a deep vested interest in racing.
FORE's first race in the series will take place from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18 at Glen Helen Raceway, 18585 Verdemont Ranch Road in San Bernardino. Admission is $10, with proceeds benefiting FAST Aid, which provides assistance for injured racers and their families.
She said 45 participants have already registered for this weekend’s event, which is for women and children racers. Women will race buggies, UTVs and desert trucks, while children will steer age-appropriate trophy karts around the track.
“For a lot of women, this will be their first race," Pierce said. "This is really giving women an opportunity to race in a non-threatening, friendly environment which is a big, huge deal."
Pierce said there are some big-name sponsors who have come forward for the event. Baja 1000 competitor, Heidi Steele, will be on hand to sign autographs.
Three additional FORE races will be held this year, each benefiting a different cause, such as prostate cancer in men and wounded veterans.
Additionally, FORE plans to give back to a variety of nonprofit organizations, including Temecula-based Michelle’s Place, which assists women dealing with breast cancer.
Pierce is claiming victory in her personal battle with the disease. She is scheduled to undergo a second reconstructive surgery on Tuesday, Jan. 21, following this weekend’s race.
“In all of the sadness, a wonderful thing has been born,” she said.
For more information, visit Fore-racing.com.