LAKEWOOD - The Chautauqua Mall served as the rallying point for hundreds of pink-clad warriors in the effort to enhance local cancer care.
On Saturday, the third annual WCA LINKS Pink Walk was held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to celebrate and remember victims - past and present - of breast cancer, while raising money for early detection and preventative methods.
"As important as raising the money is, what we really try to do is pay tribute to those that battle cancer," said Karl Sisson, director of development with WCA Hospital. "And it gives us an opportunity during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to, obviously, elevate awareness, and encourage ladies to go and get checked. As we raise dollars with the core equipment to better diagnose (breast cancer), it's as important that ladies get in and make sure that we're using that equipment so that we can prevent a lot of what's out there relative to the fight against cancer.
"One thing I've learned in the three years we've been doing this is that it's not about age, it's not about race or any of those things," he added. "We've found that there are those who have battled breast cancer at every stage in life, and we're here to celebrate them."
The event began with registration and a variety of accompanying festivities and family-friendly activities such as the Balloon Man, face painting, games, pink nails, pink feathers, pink extensions, pink refreshments and a basket giveaway. A brief tribute video displaying names and photographs of past and present cancer survivors was then played before one of them addressed the Pink Walk participants.
"I am 32 years old and I'm proud to say I'm a survivor," said Jenny Rader, who underwent a double mastectomy procedure on July 31. "I may have been the only one diagnosed with breast cancer in my family, but I can tell you firsthand that I'm not the only survivor. I say this because, when someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, it's not only them who's affected. My family and friends were all right by my side. In fact, I don't think I would have made it through this with a smile on my face without their love and support.
Jenny Rader, a first-year cancer survivor, leads participants of the third annual WCA LINKS Pink Walk around the interior of Chautauqua Mall.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
"That's why I think this walk is so important," she continued. "Not only are we raising money for breast cancer care, as well as awareness, but we're also here to share support and love. Because of your hard work and compassion, our area is one step closer to prevention and early detection of breast cancer."
Rader then led the official Pink Walk around the mall, with participants carrying a pink chain constructed of paper links. Each link in the chain bore the name of an individual or business that made a donation to LINKS Charity within the past month. The chains constructed from the names of donors to the two previous Pink Walk events also decorated the ceiling in the center of the mall.
Sisson said the partnership between WCA and LINKS Charity was established to supplement the funding that LINKS has been raising on its own since 1991. Since that time, LINKS has raised more than $1 million, made a $300,000 pledge toward the purchase of 3-D breast tomosynthesis and made a $275,000 gift toward digital mammography technology at WCA.
As the Pink Walk increases in age, he said, so does the amount of money it raises. According to Sisson, the 2012 Pink Walk contributed $20,000 to the $100,000 donated by LINKS last year, a number he hopes to exceed this year.