Story by Shelia White. Photos by Jan Osborn & Courtesy of Making Strides.
Each year on a crisp Saturday morning in October, thousands of people gather wearing various shades of pink. From tutu skirts to matching team shirts, people of all ages join together to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer. There is excitement in the air that is so powerful it feels tangible. People arrive as strangers, but friendships are formed by the end of the day at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.
In 1993, the American Cancer Society (ACS) started its Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign. When the campaign started, breast cancer affected many people, especially women. One-in-four people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Making Strides is an event that honors the survivors, thrivers and now previvors of breast cancer and also rallies around the need for funding breast cancer research. ACS is the leader in cancer research, with over $4 billion in funding and $71 million specifically designated for breast cancer research.
“The main mission for Making Strides is to bring awareness to breast cancer. So, whether that is through raising funds or just bringing the awareness to the community, along with celebrating survivors,” said Caitlin Rodgers, Senior Development Manager for Making Strides.
This year participants celebrate the event’s 30th anniversary with more than 150 communities gathering to walk for this cause nationwide. There are two walks hosted in Texas: in Dallas-Fort Worth, which covers all local zip codes beginning with 75 and 76, and Corpus Christi. Because Oklahoma and Louisiana do not have Making Strides events in their states, people from those areas often show their support in North Texas.
“One fun thing I like with the Oklahoma team is they don’t ever come to our walk, but they have their walk. They raise money for North Texas, of course, but then they have their celebration,” said Caity Bowen, Associate Director of Development for Making Strides of North Texas.
Making Strides of North Texas’s monetary goal for 2022 is $350 thousand. With the help of corporate sponsors, partners, and donations from the community, Making Strides is hopeful this goal will be achieved. Various corporate sponsors and partners have booths at the event where they distribute materials and trinkets related to breast cancer. Survivors are celebrated at the Survivors’ Breakfast, hosted by Making Strides Survivor Ambassador Zeta Tau Alpha, and are adorned with a special sash to wear during the walk.
One of Making Strides of North Texas’s most successful years was in 2018, with approximately eight thousand walkers in attendance. The next year in 2019, the number of participants was between three and five thousand. In 2021, with COVID concerns still looming, they had close to a thousand walkers.
“This year, we are trending a lot higher, so we are hopeful to be bigger or close to 2019. Fingers crossed,” Caitlin said.
They contribute some of the success so far this year to promoting their goal using platforms like Google ads, Facebook and Instagram ads. Many people are signing up to participate in the walk and fundraise through these platforms. The location of the event also plays a significant role in the success of an event.
“Moving the event has been a challenge. Moving the event back to Arlington was a goal for this year,” said Caitlin. She explained that Arlington is the halfway point between their entire market. The size of the venue was also important, so more people would be able to attend.
In 2018, the Real Men Wear Pink North Texas formed as another avenue to bring awareness to breast cancer. The men are leaders in their communities or their companies and most are spouses and caregivers. The organization also provides a way for the men to support each other in their role as caregivers. Candidates are required to raise a minimum of $2,500 per year and wear pink during October. The Real Men Wear Pink candidates will be recognized at the walk this year.
Good corporate sponsors and partners are invaluable to the success of most nonprofit organizations. “Chevy is one of the national sponsors and partners, so they participate in strides events all around the country. Their program is called Chevy Cares,” said Caitlin.
Chevy Cares have a pink car that serves as the pace car for certain NASCAR races. During those races, each time the pace car must come on the track, Chevy donates $2,500 to Making Strides. The car will be on display at the Chevy display at the State Fair of Texas this year. In addition to being a great partner, Chevy is a $10,000 sponsor this year.
“So not only are they helping us in so many ways, but they are being gracious enough to donate to us as well,” said Caitlin.
ACS are beacons in several communities with their Hope Lodge program. We are fortunate to have the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Hope Lodge, in Dallas. The Dallas location has fifty rooms to accommodate patients and their caregivers. It is often considered a home away from home for people undergoing cancer treatments with no specific time frame or fees for the stays.
Caitlin and Caity are looking forward to this year’s event. Both agree that Making Strides is really about community.
“Strides help turn heartache into happiness—the excitement in knowing there will be a tomorrow. You know better days are ahead,” Caity explained.
Caitlin, who lost a good friend to metastatic breast cancer in 2018, said that her friend made it a point to remind people to thank and care for their loved ones.
“I make it a mission of mine to always recognize caregivers during the Making Strides event as well,” Caitlin stated.
This year, Making Strides of North Texas will host its eleventh annual event on October 15 at 9 a.m. in the Choctaw Stadium in Arlington. To sign up for the event, donate, or dedicate a tribute, visit the Making Strides of North Texas website.