Eleven thousand people participated early Sunday morning in the American Cancer Society’s third annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fund-raiser in Balboa Park.
The annual walk exceeded organizers’ expectations of 8,000 participants and $300,000, the final statistics read 11,000 walkers raising $600,000.
The money will be used for breast cancer research, public education and patient programs. Most of it will be used locally, according to the American Cancer Society.
UCSD and the UCSD Women’s Center have participated in the walk for the past three years and have organized programs to get students involved.
The walk was sponsored by NBC Channel 7/39, SAIC, San Diego Gas and Electric, Metabolife, and Sempra Energy Company. It included teams from some of the county’s other corporations, schools and health institutions, as well as private individuals who wanted to raise money for breast cancer research.
The walk, scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m., started with a welcome speech from NBC 7/39’s Susan Taylor, who outlined the day’s events.
Other speakers included local doctors, cancer survivors, sponsors, patients and politicians who were there in support of the American Cancer Society.
“”This is our call to action and a reminder that there is hope in the progression of the cure,”” said California American Cancer Society Board of Directors President Maria Reyes-Mason. “”I know, as we all do, that everyone here cares about this and there are more out there that care too.””
According to Regional Chairwoman of the American Cancer Society and breast cancer survivor America Donatto, the event was not just about the money that was raised, but the people for whom it was raised.
“”Judging by the number of breast cancer survivors who were here to celebrate life, it is apparent that we are making strides,”” Donatto said.
She explained that the walkers were “”people who want to demonstrate love for their mothers, wives, sisters, friends and co-workers who have been struck with breast cancer. Many of our participants walk to honor a lost loved one.””
According to Women’s Center representative Emelyn de la Pena, learning about the disease is a key to unlocking a cure.
“”The education is what is really important,”” de la Pena said. “”We need to get more people out here to get the word out about what is going on.””
Barbara Mendeas, also of the Women’s Center, agrees.
“”It is really overwhelming once you see all these people out here, and it is easy to see how this event can be very emotional for people,”” Mendeas said. “”Everyone is here for a reason, but we need to have more participants. We need more people.””
UCSD junior Erin Babcock received e-mails and memos from the Women’s Center regarding the walk, and decided to get Muir college involved.
Babcock recruited participants by posting flyers and organizing a carpool to transport a group of students to Balboa Park.
“”It would have been great to have a lot more people out here, but those that we did have are great,”” Babcock said. “”We have got quality if not quantity and we raised money for a great cause.””
Before the event began, 27th district Assemblyman Howard Wayne was introduced.
Wayne was instrumental in the three-year-long passing of Bill 2878, which allows low-income women to receive treatment for their illness through a $20 million addition to the budget. The bill was approved last year.
According to Wayne, he is currently working on a bill under which uninsured women will be able to receive medical help.
“”We could not succeed without all the effort from all the people that you see out here today.,”” Wayne said. “”They are the ones who put in the effort so I can get the bill passed. … and we will get this new bill passed as well, no matter how long it takes.””
During the walk, many people were grouped by teams in support of companies, friends and loved ones.
Walkers held signs proclaiming their affiliation and cheered at each other as they made their way to the finish line. Participants also donated food, took seats on the grass and listened to a congratulatory speech from Taylor.
Muir freshman Jacob Ellena was pleased that he participated in the Stride Against Breast Cancer.
“”I had a good time for a good cause and I was surprised to see so many people out there … so many showed up,”” he said.
Taylor triumphantly spoke to the participants as they crossed the finish line.
“”You are the ones who show that they care. You are actually helping to save lives,”” Taylor said.