SEBASTIAN — Pink streaks in the sunrise tinged the sky and reflected in the Indian River lagoon were a perfect prelude to the sea of pink that washed through Sebastian’s Riverview Park early Saturday morning. This was the inaugural Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, staged in the park.
Individual walkers, groups of pals and business-sponsored teams had all raised money for the cause – cancer research – and virtually everyone, supporters and cancer survivors, proudly (and often hilariously) sported pink bras, fastened over t-shirts emblazoned with such phrases as “Fight Like A Girl” and “Bosom Buddies” and adorned with feathers, flowers, glitter, tassels, polka dots and studs. There were pink tutus, pink crowns, pink striped sox, pink wigs, inflatable flamingos. One group had added delicate pink fairy wings to their ensembles.
ACS Community Representative Teresa Woodson explained that the walk is not a formally sanctioned 5K and that “the winners are our survivors. They are all winners!”
An intensely moving moment in the pre-walk festivities came when the cancer survivors were invited to the stage: as, one after another, they joyfully crossed, pink-clad, raising the victory sign, waving, holding hands, the cheers thundered skyward and many blinked back tears.
With Sebastian River Medical Center as Pink Premier Presenting Sponsor, the event had signed up some 2,000 participants, the most ever. Dr Edward Murphy was Gold Sponsor and George E.Warren Corp. And Indian River Medical Center were Silver Sponsors. Heading the hard-working committee were Co-chairs Katy Faires and Michelle Servos.
Genevieve Voglesong, of Vero Beach, had dyed her hair pink: “Both my aunts were diagnosed with cancer,” she said, “and I had a friend in high school who died of cancer.”
A feather-forward group from Barefoot Bay, the Pink Flamingos, clustered, glittery and ebullient.
“We are the feathery flock,” laughed Anastasia Baptiste, gesturing to her pals Marna Ward, Marilyn Coulbourne, Betsy Clark and Pat Beling. Among other groups were the Pink Pacers, The Moorings Life Savers, Seaside Studio, IRMC, and Baker’s Buddies.
It was the third walk for Lisa Williams of Vero Beach, who had decked out her dogs Maggie and Tico in pink polka dot shirts. Lisa works at SRMC and her, mom, Teri Lindsey, is a 4-year cancer survivor. With daughter Lindsey Stalheber, the 3-generation team included Teri’s pink-ribboned pup, Woozle.
Amidst the mostly female participants were several men, gamely stuffed into pink bras to support the cause that touches everyone.
Tyler Hulsberg walked with the Friends Fighting For Friends team, while David Leemon joined with Donna’s Divas. 6’2″ former soldier Jason Willis, of Sebastian, recently returned from a tour with the Army, required two bright fuchsia bras to span his broad shoulders.
Toddler Brooke Miller, 3, was adorable in sparkly pink sneakers, as sister Dakota Helgeson, 10, rocked a wicked black and white hat and pink-trimmed fringe shirt. Their grandma, Wanda Adams, herself a cancer survivor, lost her own mother to the disease. With the girls’ mom, Katie Nauss, they made up another 3-generation group.
Giselle McCray, Christina Stinson, and EdLyn Arroyo are members of the EOC Head Start group, who participate each year.
Fundraising since May, and walking for the first time was Sebastian Girl Scout Troop 50868, led by Crystal Moorehead and Lupe Lopez. In matching pink and black, Shawn McClain and Karri Perry, of Sebastian, were also walking for the first time. His mom and dad both had cancer; and Perry herself as well as a friend, are cancer survivors.
As walk time approached, radio personalities Jeff and Dana from The New Breeze FM, a Media Sponsor, took to the stage to provide blood pumping music and info bites. Displayed on the stage was what was hoped to become the “world’s largest Bra Ball,” already 2-3 feet across, bras of every shade of red, pink, fuchsia, plaid, striped, polka dotted, were wound together. The bra-clad audience was urged to donate their own pink garments to the structure upon finishing the walk.
The high-volume crowd grew silent as SRMC employee Kay Wright sang a powerful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, and the no sound save the bird song could be heard as a moment of silence was observed for those who had lost their lives.
The crowd remained attentive as Faires and Servos explained that, while Florida has the second highest number of cancer deaths in the nation, there are now two cancer research centers in the state, and that $7 million has been raised in the past five years “with your help.”
With the survivors leading the way, the pink-clad hundreds burst though the balloon arch and headed out into the sunny sidewalks along the river, victory over this dreaded foe closer with every single step.