October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and for the American Cancer Society, that means Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fundraising walk events.
The events take place all across the United States, but Central Maryland strides walk will once again be held at Watkins Park, in Mount Airy, on Oct. 20. It will be the ninth walk there, according to American Cancer Society Community Development Manager Victoria Colosimo. “Registration will start at 9 a.m. and the walk itself starts at 10 a.m.,” she said. “We do an opening ceremony that starts at 9:40 a.m.”
Last year 650 walkers turned out for the noncompetitive 5K walk around the park, and raised $107,671, according to Colosimo.
“In other events we hold, like Relay for Life, it gets spread out to all different types of cancer,” she said. “The money from this walk goes toward breast cancer research and also to help with the patient programs that the American Cancer Society has.”
Patient programs include free rides to chemotherapy, free places to stay near treatment and a 24-hour cancer help hotline.
But Making Strides is about raising awareness as much as it is about raising funds, about supporting and recognizing survivors and their families through the event itself, according to Colosimo. When it comes to breast cancer, “So many people everywhere are touched by that and you don’t always know,” she said.
People like Mike Dietz, of Mount Airy.
Touched by cancer
In 1981, Dietz’s wife Anne went to the doctor for what was just a regular checkup.
Except the doctor found a lump in her breast.
“One thing led to another, and they discovered that it was cancer. We were young and dumb, really didn’t understand what cancer really was,” Mike said. “A year-and-a-half later I buried her.”
He still gets emotional talking about her, recalling that she participated in a research study at the National Institutes for Health.
“I’m hoping it’s helping to save other women’s lives,” Dietz said.
Dietz couldn’t fight back against cancer as a doctor, but he soon found a way to contribute in his own fashion. A friend showed him a magazine story about radon, the radioactive gas that can accumulate in basements and homes and increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.
“I did some research into it and I realized, this is something I can do,” Dietz said. “I decided to start a business and I’ve been in business for 34 years now.”
Dietz named his business G.M.D. Construction and expected to keep busy with other types of trade work alongside radon mitigation services, but it grew tremendously over the years.
“I’m turning work down almost daily,” he said.
For Dietz’s daughter, Wendy Rimbey, her mother’s death was a confusing time.
“When my mother passed, I was a toddler. I had no idea what was going on,” she said. “I knew my dad had started his own business, to help save lives from cancer. But, you know, being a kid and growing up as a teenager, you probably want to find your own path and do your own thing.”
Rimbey moved to San Diego, California. And then an opportunity presented itself to honor her past: She got involved with the Making Strides Walk there in California.
“I said, this is really a good cause, let’s go after it. It kind of just started there," she said.
Rimbey got married, moved back to Mount Airy, began working with her father — and kept making strides.
“The family, we got involved with Making Strides, because it’s super local to here and we could still support the cause behind it,” she said. “The more we got involved with it, I thought it would be good to bring it all back the motivation of why the company was started and together."
So now G.M.D. is a sponsor for the Mount Airy walk.
“Most of our sponsors also do things within their own companies or organizations prior to the event to bring the awareness to their employees and also their customers,” Colosimo said. But given their family business, “Wendy and Mike’s is a special example.”
Dietz wears a pink baseball camp. On the front it says “radon," and on the side is the pink ribbon of breast cancer awareness.
“I get people all the time that well, you know, why am I worried about this radon stuff?” he said. He’ll turn to the pink ribbon and say, “You probably know what this represents? They look at me and say yeah. I say, what’s the difference? Cancer is cancer. All of a sudden they’re like, oh, I guess I do need to check for some of these things.”
Participating in the Making Strides Walk has a similar logic for Dietz.
“What are the odds you could turn up with one of those cancers, especially with the fact that we’re living longer?” he said. “Help support this cancer research stuff. Because your turn might be coming.”
But if not for oneself, then for the ones you love.
“I’ve got a couple of daughters. I’ve got a couple of granddaughters and I want to find a way to fix this,” Deitz said. “To help cure them in the event that a problem turns up rather than wait until it turns up and I have to do another funeral. Funerals suck. They just tear me apart.”
If you go
What: The 9th annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Central Maryland walk
When: Registration 9 a.m., walk at 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 20
Where: Watkins Park, 7255 Ridge Road, Mount Airy
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For more information or to register for this walk, visit the Making Strides website at tinyurl.com/y27mokz8.