Making Strides Walkathon: A Time of Hopes, Dreams And Perhaps, Miracles

By Ira Liebowitz

November 4, 2021

Hallandale Beach resident Ira Liebowitz along with his friend Carol participated in the walk to save lives

On October 23rd, 2021, some 15,000 people clad in pink, the color of the day, slogged through the rain-saturated lawn at Wayne Huizenga Park in Fort Lauderdale at the start of its annual Making Strides Walkathon.

As always, a diversity of people, united in the common cause to thwart breast cancer, a few with pink hair, paraded through the barricaded streets, especially for the event. Cheerleaders with light and dark pink balloons coaxed participants onward via a myriad of smiles, shouts and emphatic “good mornings.”

WSVN Channel 7’s Meteorologist Vivian Gonzales had nailed her report by having predicted rain. In fact, at least a few vehicles had pulled off Broward Boulevard just before dawn to wait out the storm. “Despite the rain, it did not seem to prevent anyone from coming out to fight for a cure for breast cancer,” noted Ms. Gonzales. “I’m proud to be a part of my community.”

Few people donned masks. To help ensure a reasonable separation this COVID-19 Season, starting times were “staggered.” The first group took off on Las Olas Boulevard at about 8:50 a.m. and others were to begin in about half-hour intervals.

Early festivities this Saturday included a dance routine by members of an Orange Theory Fitness gym class. Soon a patriotic crowd held hands over their hearts - some even saluted - to the Star-Spangled Banner. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts from Pembroke Pines conducted a dignified American flag display.

Representatives from the main sponsor Seminole Hard Rock standing in front of guitars said that six busloads of team members were to take part in the event. Hard Rock properties involved at the event are: Hollywood Hard Rock; Coconut Creek and Seminole Classic Casino Classic. Other sponsors in alphabetical order: AutoNation, Avon, Broward Health, City Furniture, Craig Zinn Automotive, HPS - Haliczer, Pettis and Schwamm, Isle Casino-Pompano, JM Family Enterprises, Memorial Cancer Institute, Natera, Orange Theory Fitness, UM Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center & WSVN Channel 7.

A check for $100,000 from Seminole Hard Rock Properties and team members to ACS was presented on the amphitheater stage by Edward Aguilar, the General Manager of the Seminole Classic Casino, Larry Buck President at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek and Vice President, Slot Operations at the Seminole Tribe Of Florida, Keith Burza. The Hard Rock has contributed almost a half million dollars to fight Cancer during the past eight years. Perhaps surprisingly, cosmetic giant, Avon, has given a stunning $200 Million this past century towards Cancer Research. Making Strides began in 1993 according to an ACS Representative.

Not far from the bandstand were several guitars standing up on end awaiting to be, uh, smashed. That’s right. Ala, say, the Who’s Pete Townsend OR ICON Jimi Hendrix. For a $100 donation adults and kids lined up for a photo to shatter a guitar to bits! One person instrumental in leading the charge against this disease is the Seminole Classic Casino Staffer and ACS Volun-teer Donna Randazzo. “My most important title next to “Wife” and “Mother” is “Cancer Survivor.” Mr. Larry Buck afterwards prai-sed her diligent efforts to support various other charities as well. “She is a fighter,” he added.

Progress has been made as now 20 percent of people die from Breast Cancer whereas in the past, 80 percent of people had succumbed to this dreaded disease. It’s estimated that some 280,000 women and 2,700 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States this year alone. Also, one out of three people will test positive for Cancer during their lifetime as it was mentioned. Some participants offered their opinions. “Breast Cancer is not a death sentence. It is an opportunity to be reborn and live. To smile and to value all of the wonderful daily things that life gives us,” noted Viviana A., 46, a Breast Cancer survivor from Colombia who now resides in Coral Springs. “Every day is an opportunity to be happy.”

Noted Broward Police Officer Denise Melanson, “I have worked the Breast Cancer walk for many years and it’s always overwhelming to see the growing support for a great cause. We appreciate all who have come out.”

“I am a one-year Triple Nega-tive Breast Cancer Survivor,” noted Special Needs Mentor Catherine Brucker. “I am a wife, mother, sister, friend, aunt and a teacher. I do this so people know the face of Breast Cancer. It does not discriminate.” The purpose of the event is to “hope for a cure, gather together, raise awareness and celebrate life,” she added.

The three-mile walk proved less tiresome this year as a cloud cover lessened effects of what could have been a blazing sun. The route seemed a bit different, though many sights, such as a quick-mart about two-thirds of the way and a jaunt over the bridge on Andrews Avenue brought back memories.

Our four-legged furry friends seemed in good supply, perhaps even more so than in past years. My beloved pooch, Daisy, met a near-lookalike Siberian Husky, Brownie, so named "because he is so sweet,” his caretakers said.”

“This year is very important because I am a 10-year Breast Cancer Survivor,” said Olga Arcila of Weston. “I am so happy this year to create a foundation for women who have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I love the walk because I had all of my 25 survivors and their families with me.” Her organization in Spanish means “Walk with Olga.”

Dr. Jessica Burgers, who has been a Surgical Breast Oncologist for four years at Holy Cross Health noted, “I support Making Strides because the American Cancer Society supports my patients,” adding, “I am always honored and humbled by the strength of my patients. I hope this event inspires patients, caregivers, friends and family as we work toward a cure.” Importantly, the doctor reminded us that “while we honor patients and survivors during October, it’s important to remember that Breast Cancer happens all year long and re-member to get a Mammogram!”

By noon, the gala had crescendoed; folks tossed water bottles into receptacles, tent poles were lifted and a sea of pink headed toward parking lots, a few mopping beads of perspiration off their brows in the still balmy Florida air.

If one could take away a singular message conveyed at the event it is this: “Life is precious. Be happy.”

The goal this year is to raise $810,000. As of October 25th, 2021 about $531,000 had been raised, according to an ACS Representative. Last year, $429,000 in funds for Making Strides was raised in Broward, ranking number one for Florida and 7th overall in the United States. Making Strides of Broward is accepting donations for the event through December 31st, 2021. “We’ve seen a 41% decline in death rates from Breast Cancer since 1989.” “Your efforts will help to save even more lives and allow us to continue to serve Breast Cancer patients and their families when and where they need us most even during a Global Pandemic.”

Go to http://main.acsevents.org/goto/teamira to make a donation or mail a check to: American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Broward, PO Box 17127 Tampa, Fl. 33682 (Write In “Broward Team Ira”)