Enthusiastic crowd attends MSABC Kickoff

VERO BEACH — If the packed room at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (MSABC) Kick-off Reception Wednesday night was any indication, look for the walk itself to be one of the largest ones yet. 

Wearing shades of pink from pale to fuscia, guests filed into Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to celebrate breast cancer survivors and to get a few tips on organizing teams for the October 16 MSABC Walk at the Sebastian River Medical Center. Team recruitment chair Terri Schmalfuss, in a witty “Fight Like A Girl” tee-shirt, enthusiastically emceed the evening, reiterating why the support of everyone there was so important.

“Forty-thousand people will lose the fight against breast cancer this year; that’s 40,000 too many,” said Schmalfuss.  “I love birthdays – don’t you just love birthdays?  Well, the American Cancer Society is the Official Sponsor of Birthdays; we want to see a world with more birthdays to celebrate.”

MSABC chair Annie Grace Foster noted that cancer survivors are honored guests at American Cancer Society events, and their experiences are the inspiration for others in similar battles.

“It all begins with survivors,” said Foster.  “We honor you and we celebrate you.”

Foster introduced her friend Nola Wilson saying, “We have been friends since she first moved to Indian River County in 1958.  We helped raise each others children and we are both breast cancer survivors.”

Wilson had helped Foster through her battle with cancer several years earlier, and then it was Foster’s turn to support Wilson.  Their devotion to one another obviously paid off; Wilson will be a 14-year survivor on September 17.

“The key is early detection, support and pulling together to get it done,” said Foster. 

Guest speaker Dr. Nancy Baker took early detection a step further, into the realm of genetic testing.  She related the story of her father’s struggle with breast cancer, and the difficulties of being a “guy dealing with a girl disease.”

After getting tested herself, Baker found that she had the same BRCA gene.  “I decided that I had ticking time boobs,” said Baker, of her decision to have a prophylactic mastectomy.

Myrna Olsen, a 16 year survivor and Ruth Ann Flickenstein, a 26 year survivor, spoke movingly about their experiences during the Why I Walk segment of the evening, and several others remarked that they walked to honor or memorialize family and friends.

New team organizers got some tips from committee members, all easily recognizable by the pink ribbon ‘tattoos’ on their cheeks, including from such seasoned veterans as Don Reagan and her Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Team and Marilyn Kolar of the Moorings Life Savers who does a fantastic job raising donations on-line.

Patti Jamar is organizing her first team at Vero Fashion Outlets, where she works as General Manager, and said she is committed to raising $2,500.  They will hold a Pink Awareness Weekend October 8 – 11, with pink display competitions, give-aways and lots of awareness items to wear on the walk.

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, scheduled for Oct. 16, begins at the Sebastian River Medical Center, the event’s presenting sponsor.  Check-in starts at 7:30 a.m., with opening ceremonies at 8:30 a.m. followed by the walk.  It’s not too late to organize your own teams of two or more people; team leader kits are available from the American Cancer Society office.  Participants are encouraged to raise a minimum of $100 per walker.

This is the only American Cancer Society event where monies collected are dedicated to a specific initiative.  In this case, breast cancer research, education and advocacy as well as patient services for breast cancer patients. Call the American Cancer Society at (772) 562-2272 or visit www.cancer.org/stridesonline for more information. 

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