The morning was overcast, and a bit warm for May in Wisconsin. As I was pulling up to the event, I saw a lawn full of knee high height pink silhouette figures of women, the kind that you would see at the entrance of a public bathroom. These perfect little figures were lined up like military men, straight lines, and perfect rows. All of them were perfectly shaped with their hair flipped out and their dresses on. They were intriqing to me, because I knew it has something to do with why I was there, and at that point I knew I was getting closer to my destination. I was being directed by a couple younger men in green and pink volunteer shirts, as to where to park. My car filed in with the rest of them. Sweaty palms, and racing thoughts, my heart started beating faster. There I was, finally being a part of something I have always wanted to do. I was at the Making Strides Breast Cancer walk.
Making Strides Breast Cancer Walk is a way for people to come together to celebrate survivors, raise money, and awareness about breast cancer. The walk was founded in 1984 by Margery Gould Rath who herself was a cancer survivor. The first event was held in Boston and became an annual city tradition. Officially in 1993 the event became known as the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. The walk is held in 270 communities across the nation. The funds from the money raised goes to the American Cancer Society to help in funding research, information and services, and access to mammograms.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the Unites States, as well as skin cancer. It is also the second leading cause of cancer death in women. The Making Strides Beast Cancer walk and the American Cancer Society has helped more then four million women get breast cancer screening tests. The earlier the detection of breast cancer the better the chances of reaching the cancer in time, and treated successfully. In Wisconsin alone, in 2013 4,490 women will hear the words "you have breast cancer". Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk has raised over 8 million dollars since 1993. The Milwaukee event organizer Cody Allen said "the majority of the money will go to research, and a lot of our Hope Lodges. Which is lodging in our division for all of the cancer patients that are traveling for treatment with their families." New research is constantly being worked on, such as causes, genetic testing, potential causes of breast cancer in the environment, and the Sister study. More people the volunteer, walk, or donate are helping make this research possible.
May 4, 2013 I was spending my time volunteering for this inspiring and personal cause. Taking part in something larger then yourself, is a great way to show support for a cause. Like many people in this world, cancer has a personal spot in my heart. My mother passed away from breast cancer when I was 16. It was one of the most difficult things to have to go through at such a young age. I didn’t fully grasp what was happening to her at that time, nor to myself or my family. Now, as I am older, I can take matters into my own hands and show my support and help other women and families going through what I went through. This is why I wanted to share my time volunteering for such a powerful event as the Making Strides Breast Cancer walk.
I arrived at 8 am and was ready to start my day. The day way overcast, with a slight breeze. The event was held at Veterans Park right on the shore of Lake Michigan. There was a smell of fish in the air, and also thousands of may flies. I was too worried about it possibly raining that day, I didn’t think about bugs being a pest to the walkers and volunteers, but I was proved wrong. As I am walking up towards the stage and the tents, the bugs just keep coming and swarming. Justin Williams said that the may flies were so bad "they were literally going to lift me off the ground" as he is swatting them away. It was a sea of flying insects in the air.
I made my way through the sea of may flies to the volunteer tent where I met some very nice ladies. They checked my name off the list of volunteers and they gave me my volunteer shirt. They asked what my duties were going to be that day, and I told them I was supposed to be handing out seed packets to the people that finished the race. (this was something that was previously passed down to me via the information highway of email) However, it took a couple of the ladies a few moments to understand what I was saying. I started to get a little concerned. How could they not know what my duties were supposed to be? Wasn't it on the paper? They finally understood that I was told I would be handing out seed packets to the finishers of the race.
Since I am a photographer, I had my camera with me. (which is also something that was discussed in the previous email) and Kelly one of the community relations ladies asked me if I was going to be taking pictures and of course I said yes. Kelly passed me her card and said they would love to see what I take and that they would use them for promotions and advertisements. I was excited and took her card with a huge smile. The collaborative of woman at the volunteer tent finally told me to come back around 9, because that is when the lady with the seed packets would be there. I politely said thank you and began to wonder around.
They had a tent for survivors where they had masseuses, good food, and nice places to relax and take a rest. The women who have survived breast cancer also got a pretty pink sash to wear around them like they won a beauty pageant. It was amazing to see how many survivors were there, and how amazingly healthy and happy they looked. Every time I saw one I almost teared up thinking of my mother. Next to the survivors' tent was the “information tent”, where you could learn about the disease and what kinds of treatments were out there, and where to go for help. Then came the “merchandise booth”, which was full of pink shirts, hats, buttons, pins. They had merchandise with pink breast cancer ribbons on them, and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer memorabilia. It was a tent of perfectly packaged pink products for everyone. There were booths for sponsors and the news crews, there was also a stage with live music going on, and of course the registration booth for the walkers. As I was walking around taking it all in, including the many bugs in the air, I was asked by this girl in a bright pink tutu if I could watch their company booth while they went and got their pictures taken. I was more then glad to be doing something, so I said yes, of course. The women were all so nice, and left me there with their hundreds of frisbees that they were given out. There I was being a volunteer and doing some helping out. People by the fives were coming up asking for a frisbee, and saying how great they were for keeping the bugs away, and I would make small talk, and smile. I was finally excited to be a part of something. The girls in the tutus came back about 20 minutes later and gave me a big thank you, and I passed on the great things people were saying about their frisbees. The best part about helping those tulle tutu wearers, was the pictures I got to take of all the people coming up to the booth.
Finally, 9 o’clock came and I went back to the volunteer tent as I was told to do. Sadly, the seed packet lady was not there still. They told me she should be there around 10. My volunteer shift was to start at 9 and end at noon. However, the more important part was that the first wave of racers started at 9. This is only a 3 mile long walk, so some people might finish before seed lady would get there at 10. A sense of panic, came over me, what if the lady doesn't show up? What will I do? At this point in time, I was a bit discouraged and trying to feel important anyway.
Before the race started a couple of MC’s gave some thank yous to the participants, and the sponsors. I started seeing all the people lining up in front of the arch way that had pink material hanging over it, and pink wind socks in the air above the arch. In a matter of minutes the walkers were on their way. A few seconds after the walkers were making their way under the arch a loud pop was heard, and there went tons of bright pink, light pink, and white paper confetti was blasted into the crowd. It was official. The walk has begun.
There was a this flow of human beings like the flow of a river walking down the walk way around the park. Some volunteers were cheering walkers on, while other people affected by cancer were there to share their time, and cheer people on as well. The amount of pink and t-shirts that were in honor of a mother, sister, friend, were everywhere. I have never liked pink as much as I did that day. There was such a mix of people walking and volunteering. To see this many people, from different life styles and backgrounds coming together for a positive thing was a very uplifting feeling.
At 10 I was down by the finish line, where people were already starting to cross. I looked and kept looking but did not see the seed packet lady or any of the other women who said they would bring the seeds down to the finish line. What was I to do? I didn't have the seeds, I didn't have any direction, so as I waited I kept my camera in my hand in front of my face taking picture after picture. By that time the second wave of walkers started and there was a constant motion of people coming, going, walking, and moving. It looked like ants building their homes and their constant movement from this way to the other and back again. I was still missing the seed packets, they had not arrived. The bugs seemed to get worse for a little while during the second wave of people, but at least it didn’t rain. The sun peaked out from behind the clouds for a few minutes, which was nice.
In the end the seed lady never showed up. People didn’t notice that something was missing but I did. There was slight disappointment in me, because I wanted to do more for the walkers and to show my support. I wanted to make my mom proud and to make closer connections with people during this event. I was able to take pictures and talk with people. Those are pictures that I will have forever, and being able to share them with the American Cancer Society and Making Strides is a great feeling still. When people were crossing the finish line they were exhilarated, and excited. I heard people cheer, and say “we did it!!!”, I saw them hug, and most of all. smile. They were there for a reason, just like I was.
|Me at the Making Strides Breast Cancer walk. Had to get a picture of my in my fancy volunteer shirt. :)|
|She was adorable.|
|Lots of dogs at the walk. I loved it.|
|This amazing woman made me smile with every encouraging word she cheered to the walkers. She reminded me of my mom.|
|I loved this part of the awareness and "art" they had.|