PORTLAND – Congress Street turned into a sea of pink Sunday as nearly 2,000 people walked up Munjoy Hill during the 15th annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.

Many walked in groups honoring those who died from breast cancer, those fighting breast cancer and those who have survived. Most wore pink shirts, but some added flair with pink pants, pink boas, pink hats and pink bandanas. One yellow Labrador retriever even sported a pink tutu.

As some teams’ shirts read, they were all there keeping their fingers “crossed for a cure” and hoping that “someday pink will just be a color.”

Among the survivors walking was Cheryl Hugill of Scarborough, who was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.

“In July I was diagnosed, and in August I had the surgery. It was a terrific 50th birthday present,” she said jokingly.

The better present was being surrounded Sunday by 20 family members, friends and colleagues from the Maine Apartment Association who all wore shirts that read “Hugill’s Hikers.”

“It’s awesome and great to have everyone support you,” she said. “They cheer you on all the time.”

Wearing a survivor medal around her neck, she said she’s feeling well and hopeful that a recent follow-up procedure “will do it” for treatment.

“It’s just amazing how many people are involved (in the walk). Everybody knows somebody who has been affected by breast cancer,” Hugill said.

That’s why Paula Graffam decided to walk with her Maine Medical Partners colleagues this year as part of the group Jessie’s Girls. As well as watching co-worker Jessica Flemming, for whom the group is named, battle breast cancer, Graffam recently lost her aunt to ovarian cancer, she said.

“I have two girls. … I’ve got to start somewhere. Cancer has been in our family,” said a tearful Graffam. “It’s time to be a part of the solution.”

A solution is the primary goal of the annual walk, which was expected to raise more than $200,000 this year to benefit the American Cancer Society, said event staff partner Donna Muto. Funds go to ongoing breast cancer research, education and patient support programs.

An estimated 230,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed this year in the U.S., and nearly 40,000 women will die from the disease.

Decked out in a pink baseball cap, pink flower lei and pink heart earrings, Candace Smith of North Yarmouth said she walks because of those statistics. A member of North Yarmouth Congregational Church and a 14-year cancer survivor herself, she’s seen the impact that breast cancer can have on a person and a community.

“I always say, we’re a small choir, in a small church, in a small town, in a small state, but we’ve had eight women diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said. Participating in the walk “seems the right thing to do.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]