10,000 take part in breast cancer walk

Estimated 10,000 join breast cancer fundraiser

Jody Lerch’s bout with breast cancer is summed up in three lines on her pink shirt: “I stood strong, I fought hard, I won.”

Lerch, 56, brought a crew of 10 with her Saturday to the 13th annual Mira­cle Mile Breast Cancer Walk.

An estimated 10,000 people showed up splashed in pink to walk with survivors and in honor of those who lost their battle. The event raised more than $400,000 for the University Health Care Foundation that will help fund mammograms for the uninsured through Uni­ver­sity Hospital’s Mobile Mam­mo­graphy Unit, said development officer Kathleen Bailie, a newly minted survivor.

One of those who has already benefited was Lerch, who will finish radiation therapy on Halloween.

“My mother didn’t have any insurance,” said her daughter, Susan Guillebeau. “If it had not been for that mammogram, she wouldn’t have known.”

Amber Wideman, 53, of Thom­son, brought a crew of 15 dubbed Amber’s Boob Crew to help raise awareness and money. Her diagnosis and treatment were covered through her job at Advanced Distribution Cen­ter in Thomson, but she knows many women are not that fortunate.

“I’m just trying to give back,” Wideman said.

The first Miracle Mile walk had a few dozen people, said Pam Anderson, University’s cancer services program coordinator. That made Saturday’s turnout all the more remarkable, said Laurie Ott, the president of the foundation and University’s vice president for human resources and community services.

“How did 36 turn into 10,000?” she asked a roaring crowd at the Augusta Common, where the walk started.

A big chunk of the fundraising came from efforts at 10 area Wal-Mart stores, which raised more than $114,000 and brought many to volunteer in their signature blue shirts.

“It’s a sea of pink,” Ott said, surveying the crowd. “It’s a sea of blue.”

Many in the crowd wore the “survivor” badge, and that’s what the event was all about, Ott said.

“We want more of you,” she said.

Breast cancer survivor Harriet Ehrlich’s gang wore shirts that read “Hat’s Heroes,” with the nickname her late husband gave her. Along with the pink, the shirts included a little red - a small cardinal for his beloved St. Louis Cardinals, who are headed to the World Series.

Though she was there as one of Hat’s Heroes, Lesley Brown was also thinking of another breast cancer patient: friend Cindy Cochran, who died a month ago on her birthday.

Cochran’s family and supporters were also out walking, but Brown said she couldn’t bring herself to join them.

“It’s too hard right now,” she said.

Along with all of the pink balloons and throngs of people, others such as Coch­ran are there with them, Brown said.

“She’s watching,” she said, looking skyward.

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