By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Last Saturday, an estimated 7,000 women, men, children and the occasional dog, gathered at Veteran’s Park. As the sun beamed brightly overhead, they joined forces and under an eruption of confetti, they took part in the annual American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.
The American Cancer Society (ACS), has been hosting this walk for 23 years, with no intention of stopping. This year, which boasted the best weather the event has ever seen, attracted thousands of participants to not only join the walk but to learn more about cancer and support those affected by it.
“The number one goal is [that] they’re leaving with a lot of hope,” said Laurie Bertrand, Executive Director of ACS.
While the overall objective is to provide a space filled with hope and healing, the walk also aims to achieve several goals. The main goals of the walk are as followed: to support cancer patients and survivors, honor those who have passed, educate more people and raise donations for breast cancer research.
Some of these goals were achieved during registration when attendees were invited to walk around the various tents which included the Kohl’s Healthy Families tent, Survivor Tent and Reinhart tent among others.
At the Kohl’s Healthy Families tent, people lined up to play a giant game of Operation. At the Dash Medical tent and Merchandise Tent, they could grab some pink gear like a pink camouflage backpack or the ACS’s 2018 breast cancer awareness shirt.
Other goals, like funding, were raised through donations made by the teams and individual’s walking in the event.
This year’s monetary goal, according to the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer website, is $350,000, and so far they’ve reached $152,490.
While a majority of the money funds research, some of it goes to programs like the Road to Recovery, which offers free rides to those attending treatment.
Connie Morrow, whose parents both passed away from cancer, has been participating in the walk for the past three years.
“I feel good that I’ve given some support,” she said.
Morrow’s parents passed away ten years apart. She’s hoping that by helping the cause through events like these and donations, a cure can be found.
“I think everyone needs to participate in this,” Morrow said.
According to ACS, last year 252,710 were expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Of that amount, 40,610 would die from the disease. In 2018, ACS data showed there have been 5,420 new cases of breast cancer in females this year and 720 deaths.
Between 1999 through 2014, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), marked the number of cases when a woman was diagnosed with breast cancer. The graph, which was based on increments of 100,000, calculated that in 2014, the total of both black women and white women each reached a little over 120, while Hispanic and Asian women each totaled at below 100.
Dorris Mattke was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago. She survived and has been participating in the walk ever since.
“They always have new information,” she said. “And walking along the lakefront is nice.”
While Mattke said her diagnosis came as a shock, she stressed the importance of exploring one’s options. Chemotherapy isn’t always a guarantee or an option she explained, as some people like herself had to work, but it’s important to be informed and talk about it with one’s doctor.
As the group prepared to walk, Bertrand imparted these words of strength, “Your courage, your hope and your passion are unmatched.” And with that, the women, men and children, proudly wearing their pinks, purples and the occasional neon blue, began their walk.