Lemont residents Shelley Taylor, Theresa Vasvery and Laura Fairclough will walk a marathon and a half in Chicago this weekend during the annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.
Thousands of men and women are expected to participate in the event, which will kick off with a 26.2-mile walk Saturday and conclude with a 13.1-mile walk Sunday.
The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer series, which observes its 10th anniversary in 2012, is the Avon Foundation for Women's largest fundraising event. Each year, nine non-competitive weekend fundraising walks are held in various cities throughout the country.
In addition to walking 39.3 miles, participants are required to raise at least $1,800, all of which goes toward breast cancer research, education, screenings, treatment and support services.
Since 2003, the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer has raised more than $423 million through the dedication of nearly 160,000 participating men and women. Avon has donated nearly $740 million to breast cancer programs across the globe from 1992 to 2011.
For the Lemont residents walking this weekend, the event is personal. Taylor is breast cancer survivor, and Vasvery and Fairclough have each had friends and family members battle the disease. You'll find their stories below.
For more information on the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, including ways to donate and information about this year's event in Chicago, visit www.avonwalk.org.
From Celebrating a Birthday to Celebrating Survival
When Lemont resident Shelley Taylor turned 40 in 2008, she wanted to do something different and meaningful, something to check off her bucket list.
She decided to join her friend, Theresa Vasvery, in walking 39.3 miles during the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago.
"I have a history of breast cancer in my family; my mom and grandmother both had it," Taylor said. "The cause has always been really important to me. The walk seemed like something that would be both challenging and meaningful, which is exactly what I wanted to celebrate my 40th birthday."
In November 2009, the cause became even more significant to Taylor.
After noticing a lump under her breast, she visited the doctor and ended up having a biopsy.
"I was going through a whole range of emotions. I just assumed the worst," Taylor said.
The test confirmed her worst fear—she had breast cancer.
"It was an out-of-body experience hearing those words," Taylor said. "Even talking about it now is hard."
Taylor underwent a bilateral mastectomy, and endured eight rounds of chemotherapy from February to June in 2010. After a year of treatment, she is now considered to be in remission.
"I consider myself extremely lucky," Taylor said. "I had access to amazing doctors and hospitals, great insurance, and an unbelievable amount of support from family and friends."
This year, Taylor decided to participate in her second Avon Walk for Breast Cancer—this time to celebrate her survival.
"It's more personal for me this year, so I'm sure it's going to be an emotional weekend," she said.
Taylor said she's grateful for organizations like Avon that have provided so much support for breast cancer research and care.
"One of the things I like most about the Avon Foundation is that they aren't just focused on cancer research," she said. "The research is important, but so is early detection and treatment. Avon supports all of that."
Taylor will again walk with Vasvery, who participated for the first time several years ago after her best friend's mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"The two-day walk is pretty intense, so I think it's easier to do it with a friend," Vasvery said.
Vasvery said the Avon Walk is both inspiring and fun, which keeps her coming back.
"I think everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer," she said. "I just want to do what I can to help, and the Avon Walk has been great way to do that."
Taylor set a fundraising goal of $2,000, and has already raised more than $2,100. To support her fundraising campaign, visit http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR/Walk/Chicago?px=3852035&pg=personal&fr_id=2171.
Vasvery is still raising money to hit her goal of $1,800. To support her campaign, visit http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR/Walk/Chicago?px=4140452&pg=personal&fr_id=2171.
'Pink Chicks' Mark Fifth Year at Avon Walk
This year marks the fifth Avon Walk for Lemont resident Laura Fairclough and her team, the "Pink Chicks."
Fairclough started the team in 2006 with her cousin, a breast cancer survivor. Since then, both women have had several more friends and family members diagnosed with the disease.
"It keeps happening to people close to us. I just recently had a friend pass away from breast cancer this past March," Fairclough said. "Seeing the devastating effects of breast cancer has been a big motivation for me to keep walking."
In the five years Fairclough has participated in the Avon Walk, she has raised more than $11,000. Team Pink Chicks has raised much more, she said.
This year, the team took a different approach to its fundraising efforts. Instead of just petitioning people for donations as they did in years past, they created unique T-shirts and iPhone cases that can be ordered on the team's website.
"It's the first year we're selling merchandise," Fairclough said. "We just wanted to do something a little different to generate some money for the walk."
Although she hasn't done any intense training, Fairclough said she's well prepared for the grueling two-day walk.
"Honestly, it's a lot of soreness, but it's nothing compared to what people go through with chemotherapy and radiation," she said. "If they can endure that, I can handle a two-day walk."
Fairclough said she hopes to see many people come out to support the walkers this weekend.
"I'd love for people to come out and cheer us on," she said. "It's really helpful to see a familiar face for some motivation. Anyone can be part of this event—even if you're not walking you can still support what we're doing."
To learn more about the Pink Chicks visit www.pinkchickswalking.com.
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