The streets of downtown Marion were quiet last Friday evening as the Cancer Services of Grant County (CSGC) team completed their annual Walk of Hope.
“This is really emotional,” said Executive Director of CSGC Jennifer Lane-Riefler.
Due to the stay-at-home order, CSGC moved their biggest annual fundraiser online this year, and team members were the only ones physically walking the typical route.
During the one-mile walk, Lane-Riefler said all she could do was picture the people who come to the walk each year, those who would have been there if they had the choice.
“I have all these memories,” Lane-Riefler said. “I see these families that I’ve met over the last 20 years. So we (walked) for them because we can’t do it together.”
One family Lane-Riefler said she pictured was the family of a woman who died at age 31.
When the woman was in hospice care, Lane-Riefler said she would bring her dog, Daisy-Mae, with her when she visited, and the woman’s three kids would play with the dog.
“After their mom had died, they got a dog because they saw what my dog did for the kids,” Lane-Riefler said. “That year, they walked with the dog. There was a space where their mom wasn’t, but the dog was.”
Lane-Riefler started the Walk of Hope 20 years ago, and it grew from 50 to 4,700 people over the years, she said.
“We decided early on to make it virtual,” Lane-Riefler said of this year’s event. “Then I just went over and over it in my head and was like, ‘How do I not walk? How do I not do something?’”
The local Emergency Management Agency gave the CSGC team permission to walk the mile for those who couldn’t be with them that night.
“It was really sad being there in that quiet and empty parking lot that’s usually full of music and so many people,” said Director of Operations Sherrie Stahl. “We took the walk for everyone, but obviously it just wasn’t the same.”
Lane-Riefler said she had hoped to reach the 5,000 mark this year for participants.
According to Stahl, CSGC had 1,254 people register online and raised $29,930, less than half of the $61,908 raised last year, she said.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser,” Lane-Riefler said. “We’re a local organization that the only support we get is local money.”
This year, CSGC gave out an Online Team Donation Award to the team that raised the most donations in an online campaign.
Team Shockey Strong, whose goal was $1,000, won the award with $2,830 raised, Stahl said.
“We never charge for services, so we’re supported only through donations, grants and fundraisers like the Walk of Hope,” Stahl said.
To donate online to CSGC, visit GrantCountyCancer.org, and click “Give.”
“This was not a big deal, but it shows the support and the solidarity with the community because that’s why we exist,” Lane-Riefler said.
“We’re all looking forward to next year when we can all be together again,” Stahl said.
Chronicle Tribune - May 6, 2020