Manatee cancer fighters needed to form human awareness ribbon

rdymond@bradenton.comApril 22, 2014 

MANATEE -- Bill Genneken, manager of the UPS Distribution Center on 26th Avenue East, Bradenton, and his wife, Barbara, are answering a casting call for 200 people to form a human breast cancer awareness ribbon Saturday, April 26, in the middle of Manatee Avenue West two hours before the annual Hernando DeSoto Grand Parade begins at 6:30 p.m..

People of all shapes and sizes will form the ribbon on a closed Manatee Avenue West while wearing pink. The casting call is from the American Cancer Society, which hopes to use video of a human ribbon to bring awareness to how supportive Manatee and Sarasota counties have been in the fight against breast cancer. The video will also publicize its upcoming 15th Annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, said Mimi Tran, the local American Cancer Society volunteer organizing the human ribbon.

An estimated 200 individuals are needed to form the ribbon. They should show up wearing bright pink shirts at 4:30 p.m. April 26 at Manatee Scooters, 3620 Manatee Ave. W., Tran said.

"If we can work out the logistics of the human ribbon we will try to beat out the Guinness World Record for the largest human awareness ribbon, which is 6,847 people who promoted HIV awareness on April 2, 2012, in India," Tran said. "We

could submit an application with Guinness in time for our Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, which is 9 a.m. Oct. 18 at the Sarasota Polo Grounds."

In donning a pink shirt for the human ribbon, Bill Genneken said: "It's an honor to do it."

In addition to the casting call, Genneken said he will participate in the Oct. 18 Walk.

"We are honoring the men and women who went through the process, and showing we support them and that we appreciate how strong they are," he said.

The fight against breast cancer has hit home for Genneken. His wife, Barbara Genneken, was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2011 when the cancer invaded her lymph nodes. She is now cancer-free and delighted to be part of the human ribbon.

"I love the idea," Barbara Genneken said. "I have to tell you, if you haven't come out to an event like this or a walk you haven't experienced community support in its most beautiful form. You feel you are not alone. It doesn't matter what cancer stage you are, people rise up and make you feel safe. The people who come know what it all means."

Barbara Genneken credits her "dream team" of Sarasota doctors for her remission: surgeon Russell Novak, oncologist Steven Orman, radiation oncologist Stephen Patrice and plastic surgeon Scott Engel.

"I have learned that due to funds raised at these cancer walks people are being helped," Barbara Genneken said. "I have girlfriends in drug trials who are stage 4 (cancer has metastasized) who are using drugs targeting cancer cells that the funding has helped develop."

Video of the human ribbon will be taken by a helicopter drone and posted at, Tran said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.

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