Walkers take to KC-area roads to fight against breast cancer
Kathy Ritz-Beck stood at the entrance to the Mid-America Sports Complex in Shawnee to encourage walkers and tally their presence as they finished their first day in the Kansas City Breast Cancer 3-Day.
Ritz-Beck, like many of the volunteer staff for the event, wore an outfit that bespoke more fun than a serious charity endeavor, with a pink wig and a leopard-print bra over a pink tank top.
"We're just lifting the spirits of people," the Leawood resident said.
And there were plenty of spirits to be lifted. More than 1,200 women and men participated in the three-day, 60-mile walk through the Kansas City metropolitan area to raise funds for breast cancer research.
The walkers themselves joined in the fun by wearing similarly goofy outfits with plenty of pink, and T-shirts with slogans such as "Healthy boobs or bust" and "Big or small, we fight for them all."
Pat Hickson, Lansing, was one of several women from Leavenworth County participating.
"It was just an amazing experience," she said. "I knew the walk was going to be a challenge - and it was."
Hickson said the opening ceremony, Friday at the Kansas Speedway, and the closing ceremony, Sunday at the Liberty Memorial, were her highlights.
"They were very emotional, very special," she said.
The walk this year was not as grueling as last year's, Ritz-Beck said, when she drove a "sweep van," picking up walkers who were either injured or tuckered out.
"It was hotter last year," she said, and the walk took place in June, but on Saturday the weather remained in the middle to upper 80s, with a constant breeze.
Stormi Vitts was one of a handful of walkers from Bonner Springs. She was participating in the event for the first time this year. She said she was impressed by the efficiency of the event's organization.
"It's very well set up," she said.
On Friday at the cheering station by the baseball diamond, LeAnn Nickel, Wichita, encouraged walkers as they passed while she watched for her daughter, Amber Nickel, to come her way.
"It's very inspirational - it makes you feel you have a community to where your donations go," LeAnn Nickel said, explaining the appeal of the weekend's event over the simple donation of money to organizations researching a cure for breast cancer.
Amber Nickel, Lawrence, said the encouragement from her mother, as well as everyone else, was nice.
"I love the honks" from passing cars, she said.
Gretchen Peirsol, a teacher at Bonner Springs Elementary School, said encouragement kept her going.
"The walk was a very moving experience," she said Monday. "I accomplished more than I ever imagined. There were many times I felt like stopping, but the encouragement of the people around me, mainly my teammate Kylie, kept me going."
To participate in the event, walkers had to raise a minimum of $2,200.
Hickson said at the closing ceremonies an official with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation announced more than $2.8 million during the Kansas City 3-Day to fight breast cancer.
"That just gave me goosebumps," Hickson said.