The field was soggy from rain the past several days, but spirits were high and dry as the Walk of Hope walkers congregated at Irwin Park in Homewood on Sunday morning.
Cancer Support Center Executive Director Sue Armato said 630 walkers raised more than $78,000 to support the center's mission of providing support to area cancer victims.
With cheers and rousing music, the 630 walkers ignored the puddles and streamed through downtown Homewood to help support the organization that supports them.
The Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle was the media sponsor of the event and had a station set up on Harwood Avenue. Many walkers stopped briefly to get their photos taken in the Chronicle's "front page" selfie frame.
Before the walk began, Armato noted that this week is the fifth anniversary of her cancer diagnosis.
"It took 22 months for me to get through that battle," she said. "I am grateful and thankful every day that I am able to continue to be a part of my family and my community and to be part of the incredible work that the center does."
Survivor Ann Jackson said a few words before the walk began and cut the ribbon to officially start the event.
Jackson said she had for several years been involved in the event as a sponsor, but last year the center took on new meaning for her.
"Last year, when the Cancer Support Center was calling me for my donation, I was calling them for support," she said, noting that she had just been diagnosed with cancer. "I knew they would help me with my journey."
Jackson described the atmosphere of the center as welcoming and inviting, which is important for people who are facing the uncertainty and fear of dealing with cancer.
She urged everyone to help the center continue to grow its services and its reach.
"There are ways we can serve beyond today," she said. "Now, instead of saying to people, 'Go to the Cancer Support Center, I take them by the hand and walk them through the door."
Armato announced the awards for fundraising achievements.
- The top school: Prairie State College, $1,318.
- The top Individual family or group of friends: Walkers of Faith, $4,575.
- The top overall business or community organization: Service Above Self, $3,000.
- The Spirit of Hope Award: Walkers of Faith.
- The top individual: Gail Banks, $1,650.
- Super Survivor top individual award: Robin Obregon, $2,700.
The event's primary sponsor was Cancer Treatment Centers of America . More sponsors are listed at www.firstgiving.com/cancersupportcenter/2016-fall-walk-of-hope.
Flossmoor Mayor Paul Braun and Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld gave brief opening remarks, and Jim Kvedaras of CN Railway presented award plaques.
Walkers make the 'front page' of the Chronicle