Sharon Blumer, a volunteer at Mokena’s Cancer Support Center and a participant in this year’s Spring Walk for Hope, said she has walked each year for her daughter-in-law.
“She had stage 4 colon cancer, so we walked for her the first two years,” Blumer said. “She passed this last December, so this year we’re walking in memory of her.”
Sandy Skwirut, a friend of Blumer, said she has also walked all three years and does so with her husband, who is battling colon cancer.
“Supporting this cause means more to us than supporting the American Cancer Society, because not only does all the money stay local, but the center does so much for people struggling with cancer, and for their friends and family,” Skwirut explained.
Barb Nevins, a volunteer at the Cancer Center in Homewood and a two-time survivor of breast cancer, reiterated how important the center’s work is.
“I believe in the mission, because it’s important for people diagnosed with cancer to talk to someone who’s been there, done that,” Nevins said. “It’s all about support.”
The Cancer Support Center, with locations in Homewood and Mokena, offers free programs for individuals and families facing a cancer diagnosis. The center originally opened in Homewood and then opened a second location in Mokena in 1994. Programs include individual counseling, weekly support groups and integrative health programs, such as yoga, massages, Reiki, meditation, crochet circle and social activities.
Because both centers are free, all the money comes from grants and fundraisers such as this walk. The Homewood location has been hosting a walk for the past 18 years in the fall. This was Mokena’s third spring walk.
According to Kathy Kahlhammer, organizer of the event, about 700 people participated this year. The individual who raised the most money was Pam Wright, with more than $2,500. The team that raised the most was the Chelsea Teacher 4 Kids team, which Wright led, with almost $4,500 raised.
Patti Peck and Colleen Jozaitis were both members of the Chelsea team, which included about 30 teachers from the Chelsea Intermediate School in Frankfort. The teachers explained that they walk each year for a student they lost three years ago, Sean.
Before and after the race and walk, free food and water were provided to participants, all donated by local businesses. The event also featured a DJ, free blood pressure tests, inflatables and face painting for kids, team photos and a raffle.
Steve Kelly, president of the center's board of directors, made a speech before the run and walk began, acknowledging all the people participants were walking for.
“Not a day goes by that we don’t think about them,” Kelly said.
The 5K run and walks began at noon. Afterward, free pizza and ice cream were available.
Marie Wilson wore a bright yellow shirt, along with other members of her family, which read “Lady Glo Glo” and then “Just Dance.” She explained that her mom’s name is Gloria and Lady Gaga’s song Just Dance had just come out when they made them.
“We became a team after my mom was diagnosed in 2009 and began chemo,” Wilson said. “We’re just here to support her.”
Anyone battling cancer can visit the Mokena or Homewood cancer center locations. The next fundraisers will be on June 12 and July 10 at Marc Alan Salon and Day Spa in Mokena, and June 13 and 18 golf outings.