Wearing pink and bearing hope, nearly 200 people walked through the streets of Baldwin Park Saturday morning in an effort to bring awareness to the issue of breast cancer and raise funds to fight it.
The 3K walk started at Morgan Park and was organized by the American Cancer Society. Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, as the walk is called, was the first of its kind in Baldwin Park. Registration was free, as the aim of the event was to gradually build involvement and support within the Hispanic community, organizers said.
“We want people to participate whether or not they can donate financially,” said Jesika Go, special events manager for ACS, adding that Hispanics can tend to forego regular mammograms. “Our goal is to raise more awareness and encourage them to get checked and understand the ACS is available to them.”
Breast cancer survivor Silvia Van Dusen gave a tearful speech of her battle with the disease that is expected to plague more than 226,000 women this year, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“Although I am grateful to be a survivor, I am more grateful to be able to talk to people – to talk to people who are going through it,” Van Dusen said. As a local businesswoman, she said the efforts of community involvement can make a difference in treatment and possibly fund research leading to a cure.
Funds raised through Making Strides walks also go toward supporting various free services offered by the ACS to breast cancer patients. Support services like Reach to Recovery pair those newly diagnosed with survivors and Road to Recovery provides transportation services. Such support programs can be instrumental to women who’ve received a life-altering diagnosis that can initially make them feel alone and afraid. Other services like Look Good, Feel Better offer help with beauty and self-esteem for those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The program assists with wig fitting and make-up application.
Many of the walkers participated as fundraising teams. Sara Follin and her team of 17 raised more than $1300 through Facebook, canvassing and bracelet sales. She actually has no connection to Baldwin Park nor is she or any family member afflicted with the disease. But she still sees the issue as a personal responsibility.
"For me personally, it's more about my future and my daughter's future,” said Follin, who drove out from Victorville. She hopes that events like this one will lead to a cure before cancer affects anyone she knows.
Putting names and faces to the disease, the City posted a group portrait of four Baldwin Park women at three bus stops around town. Louis Duran, 56, is one of the women photographed, along with her mother and sister-in-law, who are all at various stages of the disease. Duran lost her right breast in 2008 and her left in 2010. Her mother, Mary, 78, is undergoing Chemo for the third time but that didn’t stop her from walking and then finishing the route in a wheelchair. As the family made their way down the route together, they pointed out their photo posted at the bus stop on Cesar Chavez Dr. and Ramona Blvd. For Sally Duran, 55, this is her first walk where she is no longer a “supporter” of her sister-in-law and mother-in-law. She was diagnosed with breast cancer only six months ago.
“I’m just thankful that I have family members that I was able to go to with questions and concerns,” she said.
Despite the severity of the disease, the event had a positive vibe to it. Inspired walkers cheered as they crossed the finish line and danced to the thumping beats of a DJ. There were booths offering free water and fruit donated by local businesses and also awareness t-shirts, pins and other items for sale.
However, funds raised for the first time event weren't as high as organizers would have hoped. Donations reached $8,000, falling short of the $25,000 goal. Since 1993, Making Strides events have raised more than $400 million to help fight breast cancer, according to the ACS.
“We’re hoping that next year we can get it going a little more,” said Mayra Vargas, an event organizer and also the administrative assistant to the Baldwin Park City Planner. She is passionate about making this a regular event in Baldwin Park. “The inspiration to me is my mom; losing her and not wanting to lose any other people,” she said.
Mayor Manuel Lozano also spoke of the event having a place in the city’s future. "This is the beginning of a whole new opportunity in Baldwin Park,” Lozano said.