5K walk to support American Cancer Society

For Julie Rinehart, working to beat breast cancer is personal. In 2007, the American Cancer Society’s income development representative for Clark and Greene counties lost her mother to the disease. She has also helped her paternal grandmother through her bout with the disease, which will affect about one in eight women. In Clark County last year, there were 105 new diagnoses of breast cancer.

Rinehart, along with a volunteer crew and flagship sponsor Springfield Regional Cancer Center, is spearheading the second annual Clark County Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk to be held Saturday. The 5K is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society; last year the more than 750 registered walkers (individuals and 75 teams) raised about $42,500. “We’re just tickled pink to be the flagship sponsor of this event,” said Pilar Gonzales-Mock, the SRCC’s director of oncology.

The event begins and ends in the parking lot of the SRCC at 148 W. North St. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the walk begins at 9 a.m. Interested participants can still register online at makingstrideswalk.org/springfield or on site before the walk begins.

The walk grew out of what the ACS saw as a need to provide Clark County residents with their own event since so many were going to Dayton to participate in its annual Making Strides walk, which this year is on Oct. 20. “We analyzed the numbers and there was such a large representation from Clark County and Springfield, so we knew there was interest. We started seeking out volunteers to coordinate the committees and it grew from there. We have about 10 volunteers on our committee this year, and we always welcome more help for next year.”

The volunteer coordinating committee takes care of all the details — team recruitment, registration, sponsorships, route specifics, parking, tents, portable toilets. “Most of our volunteers work during the day, then they give their time and pit a lot of effort into making this event happen,” Rinehart said. Another important volunteer element is the staff from SRCC. They assist with solicitation of sponsors, providing the location and securing speakers.

Rinehart also oversees the Clark County Relay for Life, the 24-hour continuous event held annually at the Clark County Fairgrounds. “When we started the Making Strides walk, there was some concern because Relay for Life is so big in the county. There was a concern that the (established event) would take support away from the new event, but we found there were only 44 crossover participants. More than 700 participants were new,” she said. And while Rinehart doesn’t have hard evidence as to why that happened, she said that people really respond to breast cancer as an issue. “The pink really resonates with people,” she said, adding that the Making Strides event is also a one-day event that only takes a couple of hours.

The unusual thing about the event is that it’s free – there is no registration fee. “People are so passionate about this cause that we don’t need a registration fee. They’ll fund raise anyway,” Rinehart said. This year so far, there are 63 teams and 363 individuals registered, which is better than last year, according to Rinehart. Teams can be comprised of any number of people. “As much as this is a fundraising effort, it’s more about becoming a part of that sea of pink. There’s a true sisterhood at this event.”

One of the most important parts of the event, Gonzales-Mock said, is the Survivors’ Tent, a special area celebrating women who have overcome a diagnosis of breast cancer. Inside the tent, participants can write a message on a pink ribbon, then tie it to the fence surrounding the SRCC. The messages can be in support of survivors or to remember loved ones, Gonzales-Mock said.

“No matter how someone’s life has been touched by cancer, this is a way for people to feel connected, to feel a part of something bigger than just themselves. We are all working so hard to make this a wonderful event to celebrate survivors and honor loved ones who have passed,” she said.

Gonzales-Mock, also a former oncology nurse, shared a story about a current SRCC nurse who lost her mother to breast cancer just last year. “(The nurse) wrote a message to her mother and tied the ribbon to the fence. She told me later that she would go out and read her message and the messages from others, which gave her a sense of peace. In so many ways, this is more than just a fundraising event – it’s a place for people to find support.” This year, the nurse will be working during the walk, so her husband and children will be walking to honor their mother-in-law and grandmother.

Community support from local businesses includes financial and in-kind donations including volunteer hours, door prizes and T-shirts. This year, some of the donors include Jeff Wyler, which will provide shuttle service and the Springfield Police Division, which will help secure the route and the safety of the walkers.

The majority of the dollars raised at the event — 60 percent — remain at the state and local levels to provide services for the women of Clark County and Ohio. According to the ACS, those funds are used to increase access to breast cancer screenings, to improve health and quality of life for breast cancer patients and to reduce barriers that might preclude women from receiving mammograms and follow-up care. The remaining 40 percent are used at the national level to fund research, information and care programs and legislative action to improve cancer care.

Breast cancer patients in Clark County can participate in the “Look Good… Feel Better” an ACS-sponsored program at the SRCC. Run by a licensed cosmetologist, the program offers women assistance when choosing and wearing wigs and in revamping cosmetics usage after cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.

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