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Supporters take a walk for the Cancer Support Center

 

Members of the Sisters of Hope, from left, Lesia Barnes of Hazel Crest, Lakenia Robinson of Richton Park, Dorothy Johnson of Glenwood and Kim Spivey of Park Forest, cancer survivors who met through the Cancer Support Center in Homewood, came out for the annual Walk of Hope fundraiser on Sunday, Oct. 4. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

The Cancer Support Center in Homewood was nearing its $60,000 goal for the annual Walk of Hope thanks to more than 250 people who walked in person or virtually on Sunday, Oct. 4.

In previous years, between 400 and 500 people who gather for the walk and take to the streets in Homewood on a 1- or 3-mile walk to raise money for the organization that depends on benefactors and fundraising efforts.

The Cancer Support Center, 2028 Elm Road in Homewood, continues to offer its services throughout the pandemic but nearly everything has been moved to Zoom, YouTube and other virtual methods.

Stephanie Farrow of Tinley Park wears her “survivor” ribbon. She joined 150 marchers for the Walk of Hope Sunday, Oct. 4, in support of the Cancer Support Center in Homewood. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

“People wanted to walk. They really wanted to be here, so we felt like we needed to come up with a way that was respectful of CDC rules and still have that sense of joy that they survived this terrible disease,” Cancer Support Center Director Sue Armato told the Chronicle. 

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At the start of Sunday’s event, Armato told the 50 people gathered: “We’re here for each other. We’re here to lighten the load because we have risen together and for that I’m very grateful. This Walk of Hope is like no other,” as it followed social distancing protocols and was sectioned into three sessions with a total of 50 marchers at one time carrying on the tradition of walking.

“We’re not part of a large group shouting and cheering and having pizza afterward, and let’s be honest: that’s a little sad,” Armato said. Still, she said the marchers and those walking virtually through their neighborhoods or watching via Facebook meant supporters are all together.

“Even as we shelter, the center is still open, never missing a day of programming, because we know we are stronger together than when we are alone or on our own. We may be small but we’re mighty today,” Armato said as she asked walkers to wave or give air hugs to those around them. “We are together and that’s what keeps us going through a pandemic and that’s what keeps us going through cancer.”

Julia Castagna of Homewood took her dog, Ivy, along for a morning walk during the Walk of Hope on Sunday. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

Patrick Nevins of Homewood has been part of the Walk of Hope for 20 years. His wife was a beneficiary of the Cancer Support Center’s services, and he comes out to continue to support the organization.

“It’s a great organization and does wonderful things for everyone. And remember, everything’s free,” Nevins said. “And we do this so everything can be free.”

The center offers free counseling, free wig services, nutritional programming, yoga and many more programs for cancer patients and those who support and care for them. 

Social distancing was essential, as walkers in small groups left the Cancer Support Center to start their walk on Sunday. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

One of the largest contingencies was the Sisters of Hope, a group of Black women cancer survivors who organized themselves into a support group in January 2018. Lakenia Robinson said it has at least 52 members, although they all didn’t get out to the walk.

“I guess you could call it a cancer survivor sorority, but not by choice,” Robinson said.  The pandemic has set limits on their socialization, so “we get together with a conference call every month,” she said. “Last month we met in the parking lot because we hadn’t seen each other since March. Everyone brought a lawn chair and sat in front of their car so we could visit.”

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