Kingsport Times News Saturday, September 20, 2014

Community Health

Walking to fight breast cancer all in the family

April 17th, 2014 11:15 am by Leigh Ann Laube

Walking to fight breast cancer all in the family

Linda Stewart and her grandson Max Hale will join thousands of other walkers May 3-4 for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. (Leigh Ann Laube photo)

Since 2003, Avon Walk for Breast Cancer participants have raised more than $500 million for breast cancer programs. Linda Stewart and her family have done a good job supporting the cause, with Stewart estimating that her family members have raised well over $15,000 in the last several years.

On May 3-4, Stewart and her grandson Max Hale, both of Bristol, Va., will join thousands of other walkers in the Avon Walk in Washington, D.C., one of eight weekend walks taking place this year. This will be Stewart's fifth time as an Avon walker, and Hale's first, although he participated for two years as part of the Youth Crew for walks in Boston and Washington.

The duo were inspired to take part in the Avon Walk because Stewart's mother (Max's great-grandmother) is a breast cancer survivor while her grandmother (Max's great-great-grandmother) lost her life to breast cancer.

Stewart walked her first year in Washington, then did walks in Chicago and Boston before returning for a second walk in Washington Her daughter, Hale's mom, did a walk in the early 2000s, and Stewart's sister participated in a walk to celebrate her 60th birthday.

They choose to support the Avon Walk series, the Avon Foundation's largest fund-raising event, as a way to support vital breast cancer research going on in those major cities.

"It doesn't matter how far you go, as long as you walk for breast cancer. I'd go all the way to California," said Hale, a 16-year-old sophomore at Virginia High School.

"Doing the walk makes you own it," Stewart said. "You're walking with survivors. At the closing ceremony, we watch them give out the checks. It's in the large cities because that's where the research is going on. This money goes where the big research is going on."

The complete 2014 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer schedule includes walks in Washington, Houston, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, New York City and Charlotte. Walkers have the option of walking a marathon (26.2 miles) or a marathon and a half (39.3 miles). Stewart and Hale will walk 39.3 miles.

They will start their weekend with an opening ceremony early Saturday morning on the grounds of the Washington Monument, followed by walking 26.2 miles past sites including the Jefferson Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. They will spend Saturday night at the Wellness Village, a tent city created by the Avon Walk in Chevy Chase, Md. The village offers two-person sleeping tents, hot showers, prepared meals and support services.

On Sunday, walkers will complete the final 13.1-mile leg of their journey, returning to the Washington Monument. There they will participate in a closing ceremony during which the Avon Foundation will present local grants to leading breast cancer care and research organizations. About 80 percent of net funds raised by an Avon Walk stays in the area where the event takes place. The remaining 20 percent helps ensure that care programs in all 50 states, as well as national research programs, have adequate funding to make the most progress possible in the fight against breast cancer.

When he was part of the Youth Crew, for young people ages 10 to 16, Hale served as a cheerleader to the walkers and assisted other volunteers handing out drinks along the route. Youth Crew members had to commit to raising $500. As walkers, Hale and Stewart have both surpassed the minimum fund-raising requirement of $1,800.

They've been training for the walk — Stewart by working out at the Bristol YWCA, and Hale by running goat trails at school and by running the mile.

"If I can run this in training, I can walk it in a breeze," he said.

They've both worked on improving their nutrition.

"I quit soda for this. It's torture," Hale said.

The Avon Walk offers training hints, but doesn't recommend that walkers complete the entire distance during training.

The walk will be held rain or shine, and the duo plans to make this a tradition for as long as possible.

"Max has always been gung-ho, let's do it," Stewart said.

To support either Stewart's or Hale's campaign, donations can be made at www.avonwalk.org. Type in the names Linda Stewart or Max Hale under "search for a walker" to have a donation credited to them. Funds raised by walkers are awarded by the Avon Foundation for Women, a 501(c)3 public charity. For a complete list of Avon Foundation for Women funding, visit www.avonwalk.org.

For more information or to register for an Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, visit www.avonwalk.org or call 888-541-WALK.

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