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Walking for a Cause

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— June 6, 2017

Walking for a Cause

  • Participating in the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk helps fund breast cancer research and programs that are lifelines for patients and survivors
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One Saturday morning last October, 10 members of team All Natural laced up their sneakers and joined thousands of other walkers at Jones Beach State Park on Long Island for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.

Team captain Sharon Landon started walking with her Nature’s Plus coworkers in 2015 and looks forward to joining the throngs of survivors, patients, caregivers, families, and friends—most dressed in pink—for the annual event.

“I’ve been walking for causes ever since I was a teen. I’m grateful to be healthy so whatever I can do for others is my way of paying it forward,” Landon says. “We all know someone who has been affected by breast cancer in some way; this is one small thing we can do to show our support.”

In addition to participating in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, team All Natural raises funds to support breast cancer awareness and research. Thanks to personal contributions and donation requests posted on social media, the team raised $2,500 in 2016.

American Cancer Society launched Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in 1993. Since then, the annual three- to five-mile noncompetitive walks have expanded from inaugural walks in Boston and Manchester, New Hampshire, to more than 250 events that have drawn 13 million walkers across the US, making it the largest network of breast cancer awareness events in the nation. It’s been called a “beacon of hope” for those dealing with breast cancer.

“Each walk and each person involved proves that with our collective power, we can make the greatest impact,” says Susan Petre, vice president of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. At the walks, “communities embrace a bittersweet mix of purpose: celebrating survivorship, paying meaningful tributes to loved ones lost and having collective determination to fight for a world without breast cancer.”

The American Cancer Society reports that an estimated 292,130 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year, making it second to skin cancers as the most common cancer among women in the US.

Breast cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer, claiming the lives of 40,290 women annually.

The goal of the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks is to raise awareness and funds. To date, the events have raised more than $810 million to fund innovative breast cancer research, promote education and risk reduction, and provide comprehensive patient support. In 2016 alone, more than 1.4 million walkers raised more than $60 million.

Petre says no one should face breast cancer alone. “Thanks to our Making Strides supporters, funds raised through events across the country help the American Cancer Society be there for everyone in every community touched by breast cancer, including those currently dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis, those who may face one in the future and those who may avoid one altogether thanks to education and risk reduction,” Petre says.

Team All Natural has participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks for 13 years. The members all have different reasons for walking, from celebrating survivors to cheering on those who are still fighting to honor those who lost their battles.

Christine Collins, manager of contract packaging at Nature’s Plus, was just 14 when she lost her mother to breast cancer.

“Back then, no one even spoke out loud about breast cancer, so I am very happy at the strides we have made,” Collins says. “Walking with my daughter and now my granddaughter is very personal to me.”

Collins hopes to see breast cancer eradicated in her lifetime—and the American Cancer Society is working toward that goal.

Funds from the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks have been used to fund research and training grants in the areas of genetics, drug development, and epidemiological studies. The American Cancer Society has allocated funds toward potentially lifesaving breast cancer drugs, including tamoxifen and Herceptin.

For those living with breast cancer, the American Cancer Society provides essential support through its programs and the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks are an important source of funding.

Road to Recovery arranges rides to treatments for patients without other transportation options; Hope Lodge provides lodging for breast cancer patients who have to travel far from home for treatment, and Reach to Recovery pairs patients with survivors who offer one-on-one emotional support and friendship.

“Every action we take moves us one step closer to a world without breast cancer but we can’t do it without you,” Petre says. “By walking in an event, raising funds, volunteering or forming a team, you help the American Cancer Society find solutions through new treatments and support services.”

The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks also impact those who raise funds and walk in their cities.

During a kick-off event for team leaders, Landon recalls listening to survivors tell their stories and light candles to mark their presence in the crowd. “It was overwhelming to see the number of lights and recognize the number of people who might not have made it if it wasn’t for the money we raised during these walks,” she recalls. “We walk a few miles; it’s nothing compared to the strides breast cancer patients make every day.”

At the walks, Landon loves seeing T-shirts with photos of loved ones who have battled breast cancer, noting, “It’s so moving and it makes me feel like what we’re doing is helping.”

Asked why she participates in the walk, Pam Henegan, Raw Materials Manager at Nature’s Plus, responded in poetic form: “To praise the people who have beat cancer. To acknowledge the people who are in remission. To support the people who are still fighting this life-changing disease. To comfort the people who have just been diagnosed. And to honor families and friends who stood by their loved ones throughout their journey.” D

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