They walked to honor their relatives and friends who have dealt with a breast cancer diagnosis and to keep future generations from experiencing cancer in all of its forms.
The 12th annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk drew 2,400 area residents to Hidden Lake Park on Sunday afternoon to raise money to "fight breast cancer and provide hope to all people facing the disease," said Karen Vandoski, of the American Cancer Society, the walk’s sponsor. Eighty breast cancer survivors were among those who walked the track around the park’s pond.
"We’re all connected (by cancer). There are no boundaries, no restrictions," said Sue Tracy, director of the Merrillville-based Northwest Indiana Service Center of the American Cancer Society. "It’s a united concern. That shows with the support we have out here today. It’s so inspiring to see so many young people supporting this cause."
Bobbi Kekelik, of Valparaiso, brought her daughter Kaitlin, 3, to the walk -- an event the pair have been a part of since Kaitlin was born.
"We’re meeting friends here," Kekelik said. "We want to find a cure in her lifetime." Four generations of Diane Egendoerfer’s family participated in the walk to honor her fight against breast cancer. The Portage resident’s team Hakuna-Ma-Ta-Tas included her daughter Sara Reed and granddaughter Brooklyn, of Valparaiso.
Content to sit in her stroller, 2-year-old Brooklyn sported a T-shirt that drew smiles and nods of agreement from observers: "Find a Cure Before I Grow Boobs."
"We want to find a cure and raise awareness about early detection," Sara Reed said.
Spreading the word that early detection can save lives was also the mission of the Pink Hearts team, which walked in memory of Stephanie Spencer who lost her two-year battle with breast cancer seven years ago at age 34.
"She didn’t know her father’s family, so she didn’t know there was an aunt who died at age 21 from breast cancer," said the group's leader Patricia Franklin, of Gary's Miller Beach neighborhood. "Know your family history and start getting tested early."
More than 30 men, women and children walked as part of the Prompt Ambulance team, all wearing T-shirts that stated "Fight Like a Girl" and featured boxing gloves emblazoned with pink ribbons.
Among them was breast cancer survivor Karen Caldwell, who has worked with Prompt for 10 years.
"I was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer 2 1/2 year ago," Caldwell said.
The walk raised $192,000, Tracy said. The money will be used for research and for support programs such as the American Cancer Society's wig bank, Look Good, Feel Better and the National Calling Center, which is available to answer questions and provide encouragement, she said.
Flagship sponsors of the walk included U.S. Steel, Methodist Hospitals and IV Diagnostics. Community Healthcare Systems was a gold sponsor, while silver sponsors included Centier Bank, the Lake County Solid Waste Management District and the Pink Ribbon Society.
Prudential Executive Group and Porter hospital were hope sponsors. The Times Media Co., the Post-Tribune, Radio One Communications and Lakeshore Public Television were media sponsors.