WEST PALM BEACH — Thousands of people clad in pink shirts, hats and tutus gathered Saturday downtown amid cool, cloudy weather to walk along the waterfront, supporting efforts to cure breast cancer.
The Susan G. Komen nonprofit held its “More Than Pink” walk along Flagler Drive that morning. The fundraising event used to be a race but converted to a walk after 2020 to attract more participants. Scattered runners still jogged along the road’s northbound lanes while the crowd of pedestrians walked the southbound lanes.
At the Meyer Amphitheater, where supporters gathered before the event to warm up, breast cancer survivors spoke to the crowd, sharing their stories.
Sonia Silva, a speaker diagnosed with the cancer in 2019, had to have both her breasts surgically removed, she said, along with undergoing months of chemotherapy, radiation treatment and removal of 19 lymph nodes, which help the body fight infection. She wore a shirt bearing a drawing of a character from “The Simpsons” cartoon, Dr. Wendy Sage, a breast cancer survivor who also had a mastectomy.
Rather than risk sickness caused by breast implant infection or undergo surgery to remove them if her body rejected them, Silva said, she opted for aesthetic flat-closure surgery to smooth her chest after her double mastectomy.
“It’s a healthy choice; you’re still beautiful,” Silva said. “It’s a hard choice. That’s a part of us, being a woman, having breasts. So when you come to that part where you have to decide what you want, I chose not to (get implants) because I was just done with surgery.”
Another speaker, Leonardine Semoins, who was diagnosed in 2020, had a tumor the size of a baseball, she said, and had to undergo months of chemo. “My last chemo was actually two years ago on this very day, so it’s my chemoversary,” she said to cheers from the audience.
One of her three daughters, Savannah, was celebrating her eighth birthday Saturday, Semoins said. “Can you guys, on the count of three, wish her a happy birthday for me? One, two three.” The audience all screamed in unison, “Happy birthday, Savannah!”
Trader Joe’s set up a tent at the Meyer Amphitheater where they gave away bananas and apple, blueberry and strawberry-flavored cereal bars to attendees. The University of Miami Health System set up a tent where people had their pictures taken under a white-colored light sign that said “In pursuit of the cure.”
WPTV NewsChannel 5 anchor Shannon Cake emceed the pre-walk ceremony. She announced that the biggest individual fundraiser was Jessica Patykula, a mother from Jupiter and a lead organizer of the event. She raised $8,561.
The event raised more than $376,000, organizers said Saturday on their Susan G. Komen web page. Their goal was $500,000.
The event’s biggest fundraiser was Publix. The Lakeland-based grocery chain and its participants raised or donated more than $40,000. Bank of America and its participants came in second, with more than $14,000. Other sponsors included WPTV, Florida Power & Light and the UM Health System.
The annual event was a competitive race until 2018, when the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen organization began converting them to walks to attract more participants.
The fundraising event went virtual in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It shed its longstanding “Race for the Cure” name and became the “More Than Pink Walk” last year as the competitive run portion was eliminated.