OHIO VALLEY — They come from all walks of life, the accounting department, secretary, student, teacher, postal worker, school counselor, and social services, but this weekend they will join for a common goal – to help eradicate cancer.
Seven area women will be walking in either two-day or three-day walks that will benefit cancer research. For some, it will be their inaugural walk. For others, it is a yearly tradition.
Brandy Hudnall, Jill Harris, Sabrina Hayman, Kendra Thompson, and Samantha Smith will head to Philadelphia, Pa. to participate in the 60 mile “Susan G. Komen 3-Day” walk. Shayla Blackshire and Michelle Hart will go south to Atlanta, Ga. to walk 30 miles in the two-day “It’s a Journey Breast Cancer Walk.”
The Philly walk begins Friday. The five women participating will walk 20 miles each day passing a number of famous sites, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Rocky statue, and the Philadelphia Zoo. Blackshire and Hart will walk by, or near, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, World of Coca Cola, and Atlanta Memorial Park.
Veteran walker Hudnall serves as team captain of the group. This is her third year walking for cancer’s end. Previously she participated in the “Avon 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer” in both Washington, D.C. and Chicago. The Avon walk was 39 miles in two days.
Hudnall said her motivation for the walk is an aunt who is a breast cancer survivor.
Harris joined Hudnall last year in Chicago. When the two women found the Avon walk was ending, they began looking for another event.
“I initially joined for the challenge and fellowship,” said Harris. “Then last year once I got there, it was empowering. It was a huge accomplishment and I couldn’t wait to plan for the following year. I was planning on the plane trip home from Chicago.”
She added she walks for everyone in the community who has battled, or is battling, cancer of any type, not just breast cancer.
For the others, this is their first multi-day cancer walk. While six of the women are from either Mason or Meigs counties, Thompson is from Granville, Ohio, but grew up in the Bend Area.
“I’m participating because ever since my cousin Tina was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago, I have felt compelled to do more to bring awareness and provide funding for research and programs,” Thompson said. “Additionally, I have friends and co-workers that have been afflicted with this terrible disease.”
She continued, “I am honored to be a part of this team, looking forward to walking 60 miles. Every step we take helps. The walk may be painful and difficult at times, but it is nothing in comparison to what breast cancer victims endure. For this, we walk with the hope for a cure.”
Blackshire and Hart are walking for their Mamaw Carole and Uncle Robbie. Their grandmother survived breast cancer and ovarian cancer, but her last struggle was with rectal cancer, Hart said.
“She was our everything, so this walk is in remembrance of her and for others, as well,” Hart said. “We lost our uncle to cancer a few years ago, so you could say this is our fight to help end cancer. It has really taken a toll on our family.”
“We lost Mamaw in July to cancer,” she said. “We feel that we know so many people who have been touched by this horrible disease. We just wanted to do a small part to help.”
Both Hayman and Smith are simply doing the walk for the greater good and to help find a cure. For Hayman, it began as a personal goal to get herself in better physical health and she liked the accountability of having to train for a big walk. Smith has run in 5K events, but liked the idea of a challenge, as well.
But the women not only had to train physically for their events, they also had to raise money in order to participate.
Blackshire and Hart had to raise $1,200 each, while the other ladies had to raise $2,300 each. They did both group and individual fundraisers, including bingo, a glow-in-the-dark 5K, spaghetti dinner, kickball tournament, and raffles. Blackshire said at the school where she teaches, the principal even took a pie to the face to help her raise funds.
And, after some of the women met their individual goals, they did not stop until everyone got their money.
“I have always told the girls joining me that I would do everything I could to help them get their money, so they wouldn’t have to pay out-of-pocket,” Hudnall said. “A couple of the girls were shy of their money, so I held a painting fundraiser and organized a cornhole tournament to get the last of their money.”
Harris said she is very thankful for the small community supporting her and the team financially.
“We have to raise a large amount of money, and our supporters have never let us down,” she said. “They are there financially, spiritually, and mentally.”
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at [email protected]