Posted: Saturday, May 6, 2017 6:00 am
People in Grant County again turned out this year to walk in honor of those who have battled cancer, and this week’s weather didn’t stop the event from happening.
Cancer Services of Grant County started in 1959 as a means of supporting families facing cancer. The organization has always provided free-of-charge services, depending on donor support, grants, memorials and fundraisers to cover operating expenses. Walk of Hope began in 2000 and quickly became the organization’s largest fundraising event.
This year’s walk took place Friday evening, with registration opening at 5 p.m. The walk started at 7 p.m. at the corner of Washington Street and Spencer Avenue.
“The walk is a fundraiser, but it’s also a community event that we designed to fulfill what people need it to fill,” Cancer Services Executive Director Jennifer Lane-Riefler said.
Amber and Kadien Rust walked in support of Terry Mathias Friday. Amber Rust said that Mathais’ daughter organized the team. Mathias just finished cancer treatment, she said, and walking to support his recovery was important to her.
“Hopefully one day they’ll find a cure,” Amber Rust said.
Riverside Community Federal Credit Union is the event’s corporate sponsor, and Tim Moorman said partnering with Cancer Services just made sense, especially after the institution moved from its former Charles Street location to Washington Street.
“We built this building here to engage ourselves in the community,” he said. “This is the heart of public activity of Marion, so we moved down here three years ago. And we wanted to engage the community, so we designed this building to do so.”
Moorman said that the mission of Cancer Services fits with Riverside’s and that both organizations serve the people of Grant County. Cancer doesn’t discriminate, he added, so supporting Cancer Services is important work.
“This whole community comes together to make this happen. Everybody’s been touched by cancer,” Lane-Riefler said.
Last year, approximately 4,500 people participated in the walk, either physically or virtually. Family members and friends can also register Angel Walkers, those who have died from cancer, as Walk of Hope participants. Angel Walkers started last year, and Lane-Riefler said the addition was and continues to be successful.
However, due to the week’s weather and controversy surrounding Walk of Hope, including allegations of fraud by Tina Stanley and her recent arrest, pre-registration was down from last year.
“This year we’re behind about 1,000 walkers,” Lane-Riefler said on Thursday. “That’s including Angel Walkers.”
She said the walk is an opportunity for those in our community who have dealt with cancer to have a healthy outlet to express emotions and to find support. Participants come from all over the country, including states as far away as Florida.
“Every year, I tell people that this even has taken on a spirit of its own,” Lane-Riefler said. “It’s pretty amazing that this small community can bring this many people together. … A big thank you goes out from me. God bless Grant County.”