‘Sea of Pink’
Volusia County raises $375,000 in Breast Cancer Walk
BY PENNY DICKERSON
The Volusia County “Sea of Pink” walk-a-thon ended October with impressive numbers: 285 teams, 11,000 walkers and over 200 volunteers joined forces to raise money for those who are currently dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis, those who may face a diagnosis in the future, and those who may avoid a diagnosis altogether thanks to education and risk reduction.
It is estimated that more than 40,000 African-American women in Florida have breast cancer.
The Making Strides event is an affiliate of the American Cancer Society (ACS) and is both a national initiative and culminating event of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Funds raised during the campaign will help ACS do the most. Teams continue to raise funds through Dec. 31, but it is projected that $375,000 was raised.
“This was my first year as event chair for the Making Strides Walk. I had been a member of the committee before having served as a survivor chairperson,” said Valencia Robinson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2006 and has successfully completed chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.
“I was very familiar with all of the work that goes into making the entire event happen from being there on Friday afternoon to set up the event, to being there Saturday morning at 5 a.m. to organizing what needs to get done the day of the event,” Robinson added.
Painted the town pink
Wearing pink hats, signature t-shirts, bandanas that donned the pink-ribbon of hope and even pink socks, breast cancer survivors, advocates, family, and community sponsors endured a three-mile trek. Together they began at Riverfront Park in Daytona, crossed over Main Street Bridge and looped around the International Speedway Bridge.
Barricades and roads were closed to make room for the crowd of walkers who maintained a steady pace and ended their marathon right where they began – at Riverfront Park for a celebration of smiles, hugs and balloons.
“For three years, the walk was at the Jackie Robinson baseball park. We moved back to Riverfront Park in the open area because we felt that this was the best way to rally the walkers before the walk,” explained Robinson.
“Since it also just happened to be on Halloween, we invited everyone to wear their best pink costumes.”
Taking to the streets in sneakers to combat a deadly disease may seem like a muted point to some or just good ’ol community nostalgia. But according to Robinson, walk-a-thons are still effective.
“Avon has a breast cancer crusade and participants walk 60 miles over three days,” Robinson related. “Susan Komen has breast cancer marathon runs and fitness walks and these organizations are raising millions of dollars each year to support women and men fighting the disease.’’
The American Cancer Society event is different in that it does not require pre-registration, registration fee or minimum fundraising required. Avon and Komen have stipulations for participation that are vastly different and may be deemed less liberating.
Participants are required to show up at the ACS event with their completed registration form, submit the money they intend to contribute, and put on your walking shoes.
“And of course everyone knows someone who is battling the disease or who has succumbed, so people love to come out and support or walk in honor of someone,” said Robinson.
A strong survivor
Terri Yearby was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer in July 2013. She was 38 years old then, but today she is a survivor. Yearby led a team of 10 in the “Sea of Pink” walk-a-thon and raised $1,000.
“I have had lumps in my breasts for four years. I went to my gynecologist who told me not to worry because most African-American women have dense breasts,” said Yearby. “But my lumps were associated with pain each time the technician pressed a certain area.”
Following a recommended mammogram and ultrasound, Yearby’s physician ultimately identified a malignant lump resting under the nipple of her right breast.
“Even though it was a small cancer, I prayed and made a decision to have both breasts removed,” Yearby explained. “I didn’t want cancer again, so I just gave both of my breasts back. I had walked around with them my whole life and didn’t need them anymore.”
A mother of a 13-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, Yearby is grateful that her case did not require chemotherapy or radiation, but she was prescribed tamoxifen which she withstood for just one year.
Robinson cites “Realtors for a Cause” as her strong community sponsor. The community business raises funds year-around including a “Bratini” event held at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, which raised $25,000. Total funds raised in 2015 reached $75,000.
The law firm of Politis and Matovina have been supporting the Making Strides for Cancer walk-a-thon for 10 consecutive years. Partner Michael Politis recruits his entire staff to participate in the walk. While his firm along donated $15,000, they additionally lead a team that raises an equivalent amount.
The hallmark of the ACS “Sea of Pink” walk-a-thon is a single word: Hope. According to Robinson, the ACS has a team of great volunteers, staff and doctors who are dedicated to eliminating cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. But, hope is powerful, real, and for many survivors it is all they have.
“I participated in my first Making Strides walk two days after I was released from the hospital after having a double mastectomy,” said Robinson.
“The walk for me during that time was extremely painful both physically and emotionally. But just being in the presence of the thousands of people who were gathered on a morning like today gave me hope and strength to make it through my journey with breast cancer,” Robinson added.