By Pamela Cody
Special to the PRESS
Walk for Women started out as a group of local women trying to help one of their friends fight a terrible disease. Now it’s an annual fundraiser by an all-volunteer, non-profit group that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past 16 years to help women in the Laguna Madre area who are battling breast cancer.
The weekend-long event kicked off on Friday with a casino night, followed by a bay fishing tournament on Saturday, and the parade on Sunday as the finale. Starting at the SPI Convention Center and culminating at Louie’s Backyard, the official headquarters of Walk for Women, multitudes of women, men, children and pets adorned in pink, carrying banners and placards bearing the names of loved ones, walked together in solidarity to show support for breast cancer survivors, .
SPI resident Reese Langston has been a committee member for Walk for Women for around a dozen years, but this year was even more meaningful for the longtime volunteer.
“This year, I got so much more involved in actually handing a check to beneficiaries: To be able to talk to them, to read their stories and understand what they’re dealing with, and then give them the check. And then a couple of weeks later, get a thank you note or a text that says you changed my life,” Langston said. “That’s the thing that’s so beautiful about it.”
Langston shared a few of the stories that moved her.
“I actually had a beneficiary say ‘my husband and I, we took that check and we cried because it got us out of the hole that we were in.’ They were in danger of losing their house and we were able to help them fill the hole, so now they can look forward,” Langston recalled.
Langston told the story of another beneficiary who wanted to go to MD Anderson for her radiation treatment.
“I got a note from her 10 days ago with a picture of her in the machine and she said ‘this is what you’ve done for me.’ That is the most gratifying thing, and that’s why we do it,” Langston concluded.
Local artist Kerry Ann Sanders was delighted when she was approached to design this year’s artwork for Walk for Women. Her beautifully rendered painting of a heron clutching a pink breast cancer ribbon in its beak raised $1,000 at auction on Friday evening.
“To do it was an honor, but to see it on the backs of people’s shirts as they’re walking past or riding on their bikes, it’s very cool,” Sanders said. “It’s all about the community. I’ve had cancer in my family, not breast cancer, but cancer just the same, so this was a nice opportunity to give to a great cause.”
Self-described world-renowned and inimitable writer, blogger, activist, world traveler, entrepreneur, and owner of Cafe Karma on South Padre Island, Will Everett came out to participate in the walk on Sunday, and spoke about his reasons for attending the event.
“For me coming out, it’s about breast cancer, but it’s also about renewing my commitment to the community. Just seeing people who are united instead of being torn apart as we are. So many things rip us apart, it’s good to have something that brings us together. It’s restoring my belief that we’re not all assholes,” said Everett bluntly.
Also participating in the walk were Mitzy Perez, visiting from Austin, and her family.
“My parents live in San Juan, so I came to support my mom, who’s a breast cancer survivor,” Perez said.
Her mother, Patty Perez, sporting a pink superhero cape and a homemade sign, commented, said “I’m a two-year survivor. I would say to the women going through this like I did, never give up. There’s always hope. I’m out here to show support for all those women who have lost their battle, or that are fighting it right now.”
Whether it’s to support a family member or a loved one, or to donate time and effort to a worthy cause, Maritza Hoffman of South Padre Island summed it up succinctly as to why so many come out for the Walk for Women weekend.
“This is a way for us to support other women that are going through breast cancer. It’s a disease that, whether it affects us personally, we all know somebody that’s either had it or we’ve had it ourselves. What I love about this event is, it’s about our community, supporting our women who are going through this battle, helping them, and for them to know that we love them.”