Walk of Hope delivers good vibes to people with cancer

The positive energy from the Cancer Support Center's Walk of Hope preliminaries reverberated through downtown Homewood on Oct. 6. 

From the banter of DJ Krazee Kevin, which could be heard two blocks away, to moves of the Parker Junior High cheerleaders and the warm up zumba dance session, the mood was buoyant and people were moving.

And smiling, lots of smiling.

For Cancer Support Center Director Sue Armato, the joyous mood was an important part of the annual event. 

"There's a lot of stress and sadness and isolation from cancer," she said. "This is a day where we break all of that down by being together as one group of people believing and supporting each other. I think that's as important as raising the money."

The money is important, though. The center offers all its support services and programs for free to cancer patients and survivors. It's annual budget is $1.2 million, Armato said. 

"Last year we provided over 12,000 hours of free services and served over 4,200 people," she said. "We don't have any big state or federal grants, so it's really the support of the community."

The pre-walk festivities included recognizing the individuals and organizations who raised the most money. 

The top fundraising school was Governors State University. The GSU team raised $387. 

The top business and community organization, This One's for You, affiliated with Homewood Public Library, raised $752.

The top Individual family or group of friends was Walkers of Faith, which raised $6,057.14.

"These ladies are part of an amazing group that's at the center every month called Sisters of Hope," Armato said. "They are there to help other African American women fight through breast cancer."

Two members of Walkers of Faith also were recognized for their fundraising efforts. 

Verna Robinzine was named the top individual fundraiser with $3,356 to her credit, and Dorothy Johnson was named Super Survivor for raising $1,254. 

"The center is more than the brick and mortar you see before you," Robinzine said. "When you walk through those doors there are so many employees who meet you where you are and give you the strength. You come in weak and you go out strong. They give their love and support to you on a daily basis."

Johnson, an 11-year cancer survivor, said she keeps coming to the center to serve as an example for those who are currently battling the disease. 

"The only way you can really realize something is if you see it," she said. "I go to show people. You see an 11-year survivor, and that gives everybody else the opportunity to say 'I can do this, too.'"

Armato said the approximately $50,000 raised by Walk of Hope this year was down from totals in recent years. She said staff would be studying the results in an effort to improve in the future.

In addition to fundraising honors, Armato also announced winners of the costume contest. The event had a super hero theme, and the entries were judged by two Homewood police officers.

They chose Felicity Howes, dressed as Rey, the hero of the two recent Star Wars movies, and Robinzine, decked out in a pink cape, pink horned cap, pink boxing gloves and pink tutu.

Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld, Cook County 6th District Commissioner Donna Miller and 30th District State Rep. Will Davis each offered brief remarks of support before the walk.

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