LAKEWOOD RANCH — Ten thousand men, women and children walked 3.1 miles Saturday at Lakewood Ranch to combat women’s No. 1 health concern — breast cancer.
The goal was to raise $425,000, said Cynthia McCue, executive for the Manatee County Unit of the American Cancer Society. The total had not been tallied at press time, but there were about 1,500 more walkers than at the “Making Strides” event last year.
An estimated 363 survivors led the massive column of pink out of the Sarasota Polo Grounds, under a flurry of balloons released at the start of the walk.
“It’s so touching to see all the survivors come together and share this time,” McCue said.
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Also on Saturday, and a little further west, runners, bikers and walkers participated in the first Causeway 4 the Cause in support of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization that supports breast cancer research.
Participants had the option of traveling three, five or eight miles as they headed east on Manatee Avenue from Manatee Public Beach on Anna Maria Island.
Eleni Romeo, an Anna Maria resident and event co-captain, said approximately 100 people participated.
“There was a lot of camaraderie,” she said, “and a lot of really great team cooperation and team effort in raising this money. ... We had a really good time.”
Romeo, a personal trainer, has four clients who have had breast cancer. Also, her husband’s grandmother and aunt died from breast cancer.
“It’s pretty devastating and pretty prominent,” she said. “I don’t think people realize how prevalent it really is. It’s insane.”
Back in Lakewood Ranch, many in the crowd knew someone who has or has had breast cancer.
Tracy Bohlman, an eighth-grade teacher at Haile Middle School, said she thought the gigantic statement against breast cancer “was amazing.”
Saturday’s event was her third “Making Strides” fundraiser, and she helped organize a school team in honor of Haile orchestra teacher Valerie Terry, a breast cancer survivor.
“I decided we needed to do this as a team,” Bohlman said.
A smiling Terry said it was “overwhelming,” and her teammates chimed in, “We love you, Valerie.”
It is estimated that more than 240,000 women and men nationwide will get the diagnosis that they have breast cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Of those, about 12,000 live in Florida.
The good news is that the death rate from breast cancer has been in steady decline since 1990 due to earlier detection and improved treatment.
— Brent Conklin, Herald night editor, contributed to this report.