24-Mile Walk for Life raises money for breast cancer services

With the Avalon Walk moving to Portland, Tacoma starts its own fund-raiser.

Over 100 people followed a 24-mile path lined with laminated pink feet throughout Tacoma this past Saturday, as part of an effort to raise money for the battle against breast cancer.

Over $150,000 was brought in by the 113 walkers (out of 130 signed up) as part of the 24-Mile Walk for Life. The money will go to breast cancer services and support in the Puget Sound.

“As long as we’re doing this, no one will ever be denied,” said Diana Ehli, president of the Heart and Soles Breast Cancer Foundation, the event sponsor.

Those who need mammograms, for example, will be able to get them, she pointed out.

The Breast Cancer Resource Center in Tacoma will receive the bulk of the money, she said, adding there will be additional beneficiaries down the road.

“There are several deserving groups that deserve funds,” Ehli said.

The Heart and Soles Breast Cancer Foundation began last year as a group of people Ehli led in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, a three-day event in Seattle. At the end of last year’s Avon Walk, it was learned the Washington walk would be cancelled and moved to Portland. Faced with a loss of benefits locally, Ehli and others created the 24-Mile Walk for Life to fill the void.

Walkers and supporters gathered at Wilson High School for a carb-loading pasta dinner – spaghetti – the night before the walk. They filled out medical waivers, saw a safety video, picked up information packets, got last minute instructions and mentally prepared for the next day’s grueling event.

Annie O’Sullivan, a University Place resident, said she’s been training for the 24-Mile Walk for Life since Feb. 14, including 10-kilometer walks and group walks.

“I’ve been walking forever,” she said.

Emotions ran high. Several breast cancer survivors were recognized, each receiving a thunderous round of applause as they stood. Nick Ehli, Diana’s husband and one of the event’s co-directors, pointed out a girl who was walking in place of her mother, a soldier currently deployed in Iraq.

Walkers departed from Foss High School the next day at 7 a.m. on their 24-mile round trip. Thoughts of those who have survived the disease and those who didn’t weren’t far from the minds of participants, as banners honoring more than 600 people stricken by breast cancer were present along the way.

Eleven pit stops along the circuitous route and a traveling motorcycle crew ensured the walkers safety as they made their way through Tacoma.

Still, walking 24 miles in one day is hard work, as walker Genie Lennon, a Lakewood resident who works as a nurse practitioner at the Lakewood MultiCare Clinic, can attest to.

She described herself as incredibly sore the day after the event, saying she watched a lot of television that day, particularly the History Channel.

She confessed the most she walked at one time during training was 10 miles. “So, I’ll train better next year,” she quipped.

Closing ceremonies were held at Foss High School on Saturday night, where a check for $50,000 was presented to the Breast Cancer Resource Center.

“I think this year’s was a success,” Lennon said. “I think everyone had a good time.”

There’s no resting on their laurels for the organizers and participants in the 24-Mile Walk for Life. They’re already looking to the 2004 event.

“Next year we want to get 500 people to walk,” Diana Ehli said.

It’s never to early to start planning for next year, so for more information, go to www.24milewalk.org.

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