CAPE ELIZABETH — A sea of walkers dressed in pink, the signature color of breast cancer awareness, made its way slowly around the perimeter of Fort Williams Park on Sunday morning to support the effort to end the deadly disease.
More than 1,500 breast cancer survivors, their family members and friends, and others joined the three-mile American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Greater Portland Walk, collectively raising more than $145,000. Organizers said it was the largest turnout ever for the 17th annual walk.
In addition to the Fort Williams event, there were walks in three other Maine locations and about 300 places across the nation Sunday.
This year, organizers moved the event to Cape Elizabeth after years at Monument Square and downtown Portland.
“We ran out of space,” said Susan Clifford, state director of communications for the American Cancer Society.
Clifford said the original Portland-area walk was held at Fort Williams, so it made sense to bring the event back to the park.
In the registration hour leading up to the walk, participants donned team T-shirts, readied their signs and danced to live music, forming long conga lines. Groups of walkers posed for photographs on the concrete bleachers. About 75 walkers registered as cancer survivors at a Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute booth, where they received special pink medals, sashes and pink walking sticks, if needed.
Breast cancer survivor Jennifer Jacques of Portland, joined by a dozen family members and friends, said this was the fourth year she had taken part. The first time, in 2010, was just four days before she underwent a double mastectomy.
“This is very emotional. You can’t really explain it,” Jacques said.
Others were walking in memory of departed friends.
“We are doing this in memory of our friend Lisa Pedro of Portland, who passed away on Sept. 11, 2005,” said Laurie Kenny of Portland.
Chris Woods, another of Pedro’s friends, said they had taken part in the walk every year since her death, although numbers have dwindled as Pedro’s children grew older and left the area for college. The group has kept its original sign all this time, Woods said.
Cristin Doughty of Saco, and her daughters, Amalia, 10, and Ava, 15 months and in a back pack, wore their hair, tinted pink, in matching pigtails. This was the second year they joined the walk. Doughty said she has lost friends to breast cancer.
“We are hoping if we keep walking they won’t have to deal with it when they are older,” Doughty said of her daughters.
Nationally, one in eight women, or about 12 percent, will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. In Maine, about 1,100 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 194 die of the disease annually, according to National Cancer Institute statistics.
Beth Quimby can be reached at 791-6363 at: firstname.lastname@example.org