By Eleanor Kaplan
On a brisk Sunday morning by the side of a clear blue lake, hundreds of people streamed down a hill, decked out in pink, dancing and cheering for a charitable cause.
They made their way to tents and began to help each other paint ribbons on their cheeks. In just half an hour, they walked three miles around the lake, raising money for the American Cancer Society.
The Making Strides Walk took place on Oct. 1 as a kick-off to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Thirty-five members of the American Cancer Society North Shore Junior Board attended, almost all of whom were from New Trier.
The event was, “Really energetic and positive, everyone was dancing and having a good time” said senior co-head Allie Larkin.
In total, the North Shore chapter raised $8,319 and was the largest fundraising group for this event. Including all groups, the walk, which had 450 participants, raised almost $70,000.
Junior Maggie Leonard remarked on the positive and uplifting atmosphere of the event. The walk was “super fun” said Leonard. “Everyone there had the same goal in mind.”
Compared to last year, senior co-head Lauren Laible noted more girls showed up, “everyone was wearing matching pink shirts and we brought beads and pink face paint.” The co-heads designed the t-shirts for the group, which they wore while walking their three laps around the lake next to Underwriter Laboratories in Northbrook.
The walk consisted of members of the Junior Board strolling along in large groups of their friends, laughing and snapping pictures as they went. Breast cancer survivors who chose to complete the walk were given pink sashes, and all sported ribbons in their hair and pinned to their clothes.
Last year, the Making Strides Walk raised $3,500, according to the co-heads. This year, the significant increase in fundraising can be attributed to more social media presence and therefore more awareness, said Larkin.
Junior Alyssa Leveille, who joined the organization at the end of her freshman year, said, “I support this cause over others because making strides for cancer is very important; it helps everybody because it helps those who are diagnosed and their families.”
The American Cancer Society Junior Board is open to all high school students in the North Shore area. The group meets once a month on Sundays to plan their fundraising events. Before their two main events of the year, the Making Strides Walk and Relay for Life, the group raises awareness and money outside The Grand Food Center, collecting money in bright red buckets.
Additionally, the board makes holiday cards for hospitals to give to cancer patients.
The Relay for Life event, which takes place in the spring, goes from 5pm to 10pm at night. Participants, including survivors and supporters, walk around a candle-lit track on the Northfield campus.
This event is more solemn than the Making Strides Walk. Relay for Life “Honors those we have lost to cancer and it is a reminder to keep fighting and have hope that one day they will find a cure,” said Larkin.
Carolyn Duris, who is the liaison for the American Cancer Society North Shore Junior Board, said that last year the Relay for Life raised $55,000. The large amount was due to a memorial event they had during the walk.
According to Larkin, by joining the board, “You really become more aware about cancer. It can affect anyone, at any age. Not wearing sunscreen [puts you] at risk.”
While educating people about the risk factors for cancer is important, the organization focuses more on fundraising money for hospitals and research facilities.
The opportunity to help other people was the main attraction for those joining the board, stated Junior Board members.
Leonard said, “Almost everybody’s family has been affected with cancer so it is very important that we find a cure.”
This article was written by Eleanor Kaplan, a student at New Trier High School. It was first published in the New Trier News newspaper.