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College Walks to Fight Breast Cancer

Breast cancer once attacked Sandra Walker’s body, but never her mind. While undergoing aggressive chemotherapy to rid her chest of the cancer that would later take the life of her Morehouse co-worker and friend Chandra Price, Walker decided to organize a breast cancer awareness walk at the College, a fundraiser that would benefit the American Cancer Society.

To help her implement the plan, Walker, who is executive assistant to Shirley Williams, the vice president for Business and Finance and CFO, tapped two of her Morehouse colleagues, both of whom were fighting breast cancer at the time: Price, a Campus Operations administrative assistant, died in 2002.Mary Peaks, administrative assistant in the Counseling and Learning Skills Resource Center (formerly the Wellness Resource Center), said there’s not a cancerous cell in her body.

As an “awareness” walk, the purpose is to not only raise money to fight breast cancer but to also raise consciousness about spotting the disease that will hit more than 200,000 women this year. For Peaks, and many others who battled the disease, early detection is the key.

“Honey, I’m cancer free and early detection was very important,” she said. “I was the first one in my family diagnosed with it. It had never shown up in any of my yearly exams until I turned 41.”

When Peaks told family members of her breast cancer, many of them went to the doctor to find out if they had cancer themselves. Her sister discovered she had colon cancer. Ironically, Peaks’ cancer saved the life of a family member.

Now, five years later after dealing with breast cancer, Walker estimates that more than 400 people participated in the 2004 walk, held on Oct. 16, at the College. Last year, 250 people attended the event. Although donations are still coming in for this year’s walk, Walker said that the past four walks have raised $51,000 total. They are still tabulating proceeds from this year’s walk.

Walker credits the walk’s success, in part, to the support it has received from the Morehouse community. “This year we had more faculty support and definitely more students,” she said. “Students also organized among themselves into groups and donated money.
Registration from the community is up this year, too.”

A stepped-up public relations campaign also netted opportunities to plug the event. Walker pounded Atlanta’s pavement talking with everyone from Fox 5’s Suchita Vadlamani of “Good Day Atlanta” and V-103’s Porsche Foxx to UPN Atlanta’s public affairs director Keisha Williams on “Focus Atlanta.”

The Silent Auction, a first for the breast cancer walk, was a hit, with all of the donations being sold. Among other items, Follett, the company that runs the Morehouse bookstore, donated two Morehouse T-shirts, Select New York gave three ladies designer suits, and Justin’s restaurant provided a gift certificate.

President Walter Massey ’58 and his wife, Shirley, walked the 2-mile course along with guests, including representatives from the state capitol and the mayor’s office.

There were light moments, like when instead of aerobic exercises and stretches to warm-up, participants stepped to hits from R&B crooner R. Kelly.

But there were also tender moments of introspection and remembrance. The Glee Club sang two songs dedicated to the memory of Price, who died at age 30. Her sons, Darius, 9, and Durrell, 14, gave a $200-cash contribution to the walk.

As the day came to a close, Walker said she felt a mixture of pride and accomplishment that the Men of Morehouse were spending their Saturday aiding in a cause that affects them in the minority.

“We got the message out on helping people know early detection is the key to breast cancer [awareness],” she said. “It shows that we are not only educating men academically but also [training them] to serve the community and do things that other people don’t think of doing.”

For those who may have missed the walk and still want to donate money, Walker will be taking donations through Nov.15. You may contact her at ext. 2675 or drop off your donation at the Office of Business & Finance in Gloster Hall, room 217.

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