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Walking with her family, seven-year breast cancer survivor Mary Ford-Naill described their support as "amazing." Ford-Naill, of Taylorsville, was one of more than 1,000 people who took the stroll Sunday morning during the American Cancer Society's Making Strides of Central MD's walk in Watkins Park.

"Their support is fantastic," Ford-Naill said. "I know the money we raise here goes to a good cause. The treatment I'm on was developed as a result of research money raised by the American Cancer Society."

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Her niece, Leah Levering, said the family started participating in the walk four years ago.

"It's been a family thing we do every year and it means something to our family," said Levering, of Westminster.

Levering's boyfriend, Brandon Reeves, of Sykesville, also walked with his girlfriend's family.

"We want to make an impact on finding a cure and helping families," Reeves said.

Making Strides walk raises funds and awareness while celebrating survivors

The Making Strides of Central Maryland Walk will take place Sunday, Oct. 16 at 10 a.m. in Watkins Park in Mount Airy.

According to American Cancer Society's senior community manager Katelyn Mock, participants had raised $96,000 as of 10 a.m. Sunday.

"It's a beautiful day and we have more people than ever," Mock said. "I think it makes them feel empowered that they're making a difference in the fight against cancer. Whether it's volunteering or making donations, you're empowering people."

The Silver Spring Zeta Tau Alpha alumni chapter participated in the event for the second year. President Anne Merrell said the organization is a national partner with ACS's Making Strides walks. The group made goody bags with a variety of breast cancer-related items.

"We've all been touched by breast cancer in some way," Merrell said. "We have chapter members that are survivors and family members that are survivors. It's another way to give back and help with awareness, support for research funding, and to help the survivors know there are people trying to help them with their struggles and their continued success."

A walking team, Wendi's Warriors Hiking for Hooters, had raised $17,670.90 as of 10 a.m. Sunday. Team leader Mary Vanmetre, of Mt. Airy, said the team got together in 2012 after Wendi Peters, of Mount Airy, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I asked her if I could do a team in her honor. She is now cancer free," Vanmetre said. "All of her family, all of my family, and lots of our friends walk. I also approached a couple of the restaurants in town and asked them to host fundraising nights for Making Strides. They were ready and willing to do it."

Vanmetre said the event creates awareness that "has helped a whole lot of women."

"It's important because there are so many women that don't have the means to know where to go when they get breast cancer," Vanmetre said.

After completing the three-mile walk, Becky Bruce, of Ellicott City, said the walk had "a lot of hills."

Walkers participate in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at Watkins Park in Mount Airy on Sunday, Oct.16, 2016.
Walkers participate in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at Watkins Park in Mount Airy on Sunday, Oct.16, 2016. (Alan White / Carroll County Times)

"I walk in honor of my friends who are battling breast cancer and I also walk in memory of Susan Pearson, who I never met," Bruce said. "She's my son's girlfriend's mother who passed away three years ago. (The walk) was wonderful, inspiring, memorable, and it was very special to my heart to be here today."

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Lara Peigh, of Mt. Airy, also walked in honor of Susan Pearson.

"She was cancer free for seven years and then it came back. I'm walking for her and for one of my daughter's dance class moms. They kept me going," Peigh said. "At the start of the program, I was teary-eyed but the walk makes me feel like I can help."

Susan Thompson, of Gambrills, said she was "doing fine until the last hill."

"I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year," Thompson said. "I will have treatment over four more years until I'm clean. It's just another day that I'm here."

Stacie Dispenza, of Ellicott City, said she joined the group because she has become "very disillusioned with the Komen Foundation."

"This is more family oriented and outdoors," Dispenza said. "There were some mother of hills but it was invigorating."

Leigh and Matt McGivern, of Mt. Airy, said the walk mirrored their typical walking route.

"We have family members and friends who are breast cancer survivors and non-survivors. We walked to support them," said Leigh.

"It as a good walk. I'm glad we decide to join. We've got a lot of people to support, " Matt added.

Dawn Morell, of Westminster, sported a survivor sash as she walked with her daughter Josie Ditzel, who is nine months pregnant.

"I've walked every day since I found out I had breast cancer," Morell said. "I was diagnosed in 2009 and I've been cancer free after a year of chemo and radiation. It's something I'm passionate about. I think it's important to raise awareness and to try and help fund raise for such a great cause."

"She had cancer when I was a freshman in high school," Ditzel added. "She's the only person I've got so I took the walk for her."

Doris Byrd-Watts, 70, participated for the fifth year and got her husband, Edward, to join her.

"It's wonderful that I'm strong enough. I want to continue to stay strong in body, sprit and mind," Byrd-Watts said. "It means more to me this year because I had a mammogram, ultrasound, and a visit to a breast health specialist. After a biopsy, I found out I was cancer free."

Byrd-Watts said she walked for her niece and two friends who did not survive breast cancer. She said she also knows several women between their 40s to 60s who are survivors.

"Breast cancer is something we can overcome. We just have to keep making strides," Byrd-Watts said. "The support and commitment we have here is wonderful. I'm overjoyed when I see the children and the teams. Not only are we involving them, we're teaching them to care. That's why we do what we do."

Mock said the organization's goal is to raise $110,000 by Dec. 31. For more information, visit www.makingstrideswalk.org/centralmd or visit the American Cancer Society's office in Eldersburg.

410-857-7873

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