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Fighting cancer, one step - and stride - at a time

October 24, 2004|by Alicia Notarianni

alician@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The sun shined bright and "I Will Survive" blared across the pink flag-lined campus of Hagerstown Community College on Saturday morning as walkers geared up for Breast Cancer Awareness-Cumberland Valley's 15th annual Step-n-Stride fund-raiser.

Participants began gathering at 8:30 a.m. to register for events including a five-mile walk and aerobic workouts. Joan Fell, executive director of Breast Cancer Awareness-Cumberland Valley, said around 50 people volunteered their efforts to orchestrate fund-raising activities.

"Our goal is to increase early breast cancer detection and to raise money to support local programs for patients with breast cancer," Fell said. "All the money stays in the area."

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At 10 a.m., aerobic workouts commenced inside while Step-n-Stride walkers poured out of HCC's Athletic Recreation and Community Center to begin their five loops around campus.

Many walkers wore tags bearing the names of family and friends who directly have been touched by breast cancer, and some waved flags displaying the breast cancer awareness symbol.

The largest team to participate in the event was a group of employees from AC&T Co. Inc. Barbara Fulton of Boonsboro, whose family owns a number of AC&T stores in the Cumberland Valley area, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. Carol Rowe of Williamsport, an AC&T employee, said she and her co-workers were inspired to act.

"We wanted to do something and we didn't know what to do," Rowe said. "When this came up, we thought 'This is it!'"

Rowe and a co-worker, Vicki Fisher, went on to rally 72 store employees to form a walking team, in addition to gathering donations from area customers and arranging for the construction of a quilt to be raffled to benefit Breast Cancer Awareness-Cumberland Valley.

Barbara Fulton said she was overwhelmed by the efforts of the employees, and reported that she is doing well.

"I'm in remission and I'm getting hair," Fulton said cheerfully. "That's saying a lot."

Lorelei Alvarez, 46, of Clear Spring, first gathered a small group of walkers for Step-n-Stride three years ago in honor of her mother, Marie Tibbens, 67, a breast cancer survivor who lives in California.

Now known as "Pretty in Pink," Alvarez's team has grown to a group of 14, including Alvarez's daughters, granddaughters and friends. All of the members of "Pretty in Pink" donned pink shirts and pink bandanas - pink being the signature color for breast cancer awareness.

Denise Mitchell, 49, of Hagerstown - a 1 1/2-year breast cancer survivor - and her friend, Sherry Iobst, 56, of Hagerstown - an 8 1/2-year survivor - volunteered at the event.

Mitchell said the two met when Mitchell was diagnosed with breast cancer and Iobst was assigned as her Hopeline Buddy through the Breast Cancer Awareness Hopeline program.

"Your 'buddy' is the one to help when your world is crashing around you," Mitchell said. "Being here today is about helping out when you get a chance."

Janet Lung, a breast cancer survivor and vice president of Breast Cancer Awareness-Cumberland Valley, was the chairwoman of Step-n-Stride. Lung said the group exceeded its goal of raising $60,000 at the event, bringing in $61,000.

Principal sponsors of Step-n-Stride are Farmers and Merchants Bank and Trust and The Herald-Mail Co. Fell said numerous area businesses also contributed through donations of money and prizes, as well as team sponsorships.

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