My dear friend, Amy Mearkle, is the chairperson of the "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk for Central Pennsylvania." Thanks to her dedication and that of many other volunteers, this amazing event has become one of the most important fund-and-awareness raisers in our region.
The walk itself may not be a sporting event, but it is billed as a "spirited, noncompetitive walk." There are no times kept, no places awarded, except recognition for some of the top fundraisers. Still, everyone walks away from the activity a winner after contributing their time, talent, money and motivation to the battle against breast cancer.
Some walk in support of a survivor, others walk in memory of someone who has lost their battle against the devastating disease. Some walk out of company pride or as an act of friendship. Whatever the reason for putting on a pink baseball cap or boa, and taking the "K" jaunt around the Penn State Altoona campus, the important thing is to be part of the effort to cure a disease that will strike more than 200,000 people this year alone.
Walks like the Central PA event take place around the nation, but the "Pink" initiatives have gone far beyond annual walks. National Football League players are sporting pink gloves, towels, shoes, hats and more during October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month). Locally, pink events are planned at college and even high school sporting events. The Penn State and Saint Francis women's basketball teams have been tremendous ambassadors of the cause, and have hosted fundraising events for several years.
NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler drove a pink-themed car this month racing for a cure. His mother was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.
This year's goal for the local "Making Strides" event was to raise $132,000. At the end of the walk, the amazing total stood at $155,000 with additional donations expected to roll in. But don't think that the folks who plan this event are doing a victory dance in the end zone.?They are already thinking about how to make the 2011 event even bigger and even better.
Perhaps one of the most impressive things about the initiative is that it's not just a one-day walk. Individuals, teams and companies work year-round planning an array of cancer-fighting fundraisers, keeping the money flowing and the awareness growing.
Hopefully, someday soon, this walk will not be necessary. Cancer will be cured and will no long have the power to shatter lives, families and dreams.
Congratulations to Amy and all of the organizers and participants of this year's event. You are true champions.
Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org.