AVON — The threat of rainy weather didn’t dampen the third annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk Saturday at the Hendricks Regional Health YMCA here.
The event, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, was jointly organized by Hendricks Regional Health and IU Health West Hospital. Nicole Carlisle, a radiation therapist at IU Health West and one of the Making Strides co-chairs, called the overall atmosphere good.
“I think everyone was a little worried when it started raining (that) morning,” she said. “But we’ve got Zumba and a DJ, so we’re getting excited. Everyone’s here to help end, hopefully, breast cancer. It’s good to see so many come out and be dressed up — support someone or walk in memory of someone.”
Before the walk even started they had 48 teams registered for a total of 375 participants. Together they had already raised more than $30,000.
“People have been bringing in the donations they’ve raised over the last couple months,” Carlisle said. “Today’s a big fundraising day.”
Last year Making Strides collected more than $70,000 total. Organizers hoped to make it to $80,000 this time.
“That’s our goal,” Carlisle said. “Hopefully we’re able to raise that much money.”
Making Strides has become a major fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Beverley Austin, a senior community representative for ACS, noted the event started in 1993 with two walks and 4,000 walkers. They’re now up to nearly 300 Making Strides events nationwide. In the past 20 years, nine million walkers have raised more than $520 million for breast cancer research.
“In the past century we’ve made great progress in the fight to end breast cancer,” said Austin, noting ACS recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. “Thanks to the money we’ve raised by volunteers, the American Cancer Society is saving lives and helping more people facing breast cancer celebrate more birthdays than ever.”
Indeed, to date, the American Cancer Society has invested about $86 million in research grants for breast cancer.
“We’ve played a role in nearly every major breast cancer breakthrough in recent history,” Austin said. “But we won’t stop until we finish the fight against this terrible disease.”
It’s not just the quest for a cure that fuels the American Cancer Society’s mission. They also simply help breast cancer patients during their treatment.
Last year they paired nearly 18,000 breast cancer patients with survivors. They also provided more than 16,500 car rides for patients to doctor appointments and assisted almost a million people who asked for help in some way. Since 1991, the ACS has aided nearly 4.3 million women by providing access to mammograms and lobbying government for more breast cancer research funding.
“Everyone who has ever walked in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer or supported the event is making all this possible,” Austin said. “The progress we’re making is nothing short of remarkable.”
Jessica Baker put a human face on the cause. She was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Oddly enough, Baker works in cancer research.
“The irony of looking at tumors all day to knowing I had one growing in me made for an amazing year,” she said.
Baker is doing well now, after being treated at IU Health West.
“It makes you look at life differently, and makes everything more important,” she said of the experience.
She thanked everyone who organized and participated in Hendricks County’s Making Strides event.
“This is really what makes a difference to survivors like me,” Baker said. “There are good things that come out of cancer, and for me, being involved in events like this (is one).”