By Kyle LoJacono
Thousands of people walked in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in Dade City last year and organizers are hoping for even more participants as the event comes to The Shops at Wiregrass.
The eighth edition is breaking from the traditional location at Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City for the more central location in Wesley Chapel. Organizers from the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Pasco Unit wanted to give people the chance to participate in the only such event in the county.
“A lot of people know about the Relay For Life walks we do in the spring, but Strides is something we do each October especially to raise money and awareness for breast cancer,” said Stephanie Watts, ACS’ Pasco unit community representative. “Money raised at the relays goes to fund research, advocacy and services for all forms of cancer. Strides is just for breast cancer.”
The event is a 5K (5 kilometers or 3.1 miles) noncompetive walk around the mall that starts at 9 a.m. Registration is at 8 a.m. Pink ribbons will be all over the mall for the event.
“I really believe in the event because it raises money to fight the disease, but also gets women thinking about and getting screenings,” Watts said. “My cousin (Christine Watts) was diagnosed with breast cancer at 35 years old and my aunt (Camell Moore) was at 32. It’s not just for women 40 and older.”
Pasco County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Paula O’Neil has participated in the event as a walker the last six years and has taken on the role as event chairwoman for 2010. O’Neil has never had the disease, but her mother was taken by it.
“It’s just so beautiful to see people come together for the event,” O’Neil said. “I agreed to chair the event because of my mother and we’ve lost several employees at the clerk’s office to breast cancer. We also have several survivors who work here, so I’m reminded of how common the fight is every day. It’s personal to the clerk’s office.”
It is so personal to O’Neil and her Strides team, Clerks for a Cure, they have challenged other parts of Pasco’s government to raise money for the event. The challenge is called the pink government challenge.
O’Neil said the government team that brings in the most money in the challenge will receive a trophy at the walk. Other government groups participating include the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, Department of Engineering and Will Weatherford and his staff.
Last year the event drew 1,500-2,000 participants and raised $148,000. Watts said administrative costs are no more than 5 percent.
As of Oct. 6, Clerks for a Cure, which has 65 members, had raised $5,765, the third most by a county team. That is a large number, but one team is on the national Strides leader board.
Jazzercise Bosom Buddies has already brought in $23,075, the fifth most in the country for a group. Kris Dail is the Jazzercise team leader and her team will be leading a stretching and warm-up session to get walkers prepared for the event.
Much of the team’s money came from a fishing tournament called Reeling for Racks. Dail said the jazzercise studio in Dade City wanted to be a part of the event because many on the team know people who have had the disease.
“It’s a small way for us to show our support,” Dail said. “We do a lot of fundraising throughout the year from the fishing tournament and bake sales. We were determined to get as much as we could to fight the disease.”
The Pasco event also features the fifth leading individual, Linda Davenport, who has raised $18,595. Those interested in donating to any team or individual can do so at makingstrides.acsevents.org/pasco, where interested walkers can also register for the event.
For more information on the event, call Watts at (800) 940-1969 ext. 5612 or e-mail her at .
“You can see how much it means to the survivors and those still fighting it,” O’Neil said. “The really special thing is the money stays in Pasco County, so when people pitch in it helps their backyard.”