According to Susan G. Komen Inland Empire Executive Director Jill Eaton, the organization that supports breast cancer awareness, patients, and survivors, being forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to host its second annual More Than Pink Walk may have been a blessing.
“It was somewhat of a challenge to a degree, but it also allowed us to really continue to expand our footprint,” Eaton said. “Our affiliate is two counties, Riverside and San Bernardino, which happened to be the largest counties in the United States. By going virtual, we actually were touching a larger footprint.
“We had new teams that came in from outside of the immediate Inland Empire area, so that was great. They felt like this year was an opportunity where they could really be more involved. That was great to see and to hear them and to talk to them and be able to engage them from a virtual platform was something that we haven’t done before. That was nice.”
The event, held Sunday, Oct. 11 saw walkers teaming up to raise funds for the organization — but this time, instead of gathering to walk with thousands of others at one location, they walked on their own, in their neighborhoods or at public parks to raise awareness.
Then, the groups were asked to “go live” on social media channels using the hashtag, #walkwhereyouaresgkie, to be included in the curated content published on the Komen Inland Empire affiliate’s social media channels.
“We had teams from far far reaching areas,” Eaton said. “Obviously I missed the hugs and seeing everybody’s faces. And I know that the survivors miss that too, because they thrive off of getting together and sharing each other’s journey and stories and cheering each other on, but it was still an opportunity where we were able to do that virtually and actually watch what everybody was doing on their own.
“We had lots of teams that were filming or not filming, recording themselves on their cell phones and we posted it and they posted it up to our Facebook page. We got to see what the teams were doing and see how they were celebrating the walk.”
There were teams walking in apartment complexes, parks and neighborhoods from all over the county. They laughed and cried and told stories of their personal battles with breast cancer. It was emotional and inspirational as participants shouted words of encouragement into cameras during the live broadcasts and recordings.
“They did their own activities, very carefully, socially distant,” Eaton said.
A virtual opening ceremony on walk day will honor survivors and those living with metastatic breast cancer, a celebration of participants, and inspiring stories of resilience and more.
According to Komen Inland Empire, the “impact of COVID-19, including rising unemployment, quarantines, and an overburdened healthcare system are causing the perfect storm for breast cancer patients who have questions or need care. Funds raised through the More Than Pink Walk will address urgent needs in the local breast cancer community.”
“This year 2,300 women living in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties will be diagnosed with breast cancer. With the current pandemic and economic climate we are all facing, coupled with the barriers to care that impact so many women and men in our communities, our work is more important than ever,” Eaton said in a press release.
With funds raised from events such as the virtual walk, the organization provides financial assistance, advocacy for transformative health policies, access to affordable, high-quality breast health and cancer care services, breast cancer screening for uninsured or underinsured women, virtual educational experiences facilitated by experts, information related to breast health and COVID-19, as well as lifesaving research and clinical trials to discover new treatments.
Eaton was sure to remind that the fundraising efforts of the event are not over.
“Even though the virtual walk ceremony is over, we’re still doing fundraising until Nov. 10h, so it’s not too late to make a donation,” she said. “Our goal is to raise $185,000 and we’re nearly at $110,000 right now. And there are a lot of teams that have just started in their fundraising efforts. With everyone’s help, I know that we’ll be able to do it.”
For more information on how to support Komen Inland Empire and donate to the More Than Pink Walk, visit https://komenie.org.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.