BRANDON — Dust off the pink boa and strap on those walking shoes. Plaza Bella goes pink Oct. 19 for its annual walk for breast cancer research.
This year, in addition to the American Cancer Society (ACS), a portion of the funds raised during the walk will go to the Brandon Outreach Clinic, which offers services to the uninsured. In this case, that includes preventive mammograms, diagnostics and cancer treatment.
Plaza Bella is located at the northeast corner of Bloomingdale Avenue and Bell Shoals Road. There will be two distances for the walk. The Diva Strut begins at Plaza Bella and participants walk to the Bloomingdale Regional Library and back. The 5K Challenge begins at Plaza Bella, with a Walk to Nature’s Way and back.
Each year for the past five years, the Green Boutique at Plaza Bella has sponsored a breast cancer awareness walk and split the proceeds between the ACS and another breast cancer-related charity. This will be the first year the Brandon Outreach Clinic has been a recipient.
“I had a conversation with Green Boutique owner Roz Creager months back and she was very interested in including the clinic, because she was unaware that we provided services for mammograms, breast exams, diagnostics and all cancer treatments,” said Deborah Meegan, executive director of the clinic.
“We are trying to get as much support as possible for this,” Meegan said. So far, about 40 have signed up for Team Brandon. Another 140 have signed up through Green Boutique.
Meegan is hoping to meet or exceed $5,000, all of which will go to patient care. People seeking care at the Brandon Outreach Clinic can not afford private insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid.
“They are the people that fall through the cracks. We are that safety net that prevents them from falling to the floor,” she said. “Medicaid is very much a box. If you are not totally disabled or have a minor child in your home, you don’t qualify for Medicaid. They are very limited in who they cover.
“What we do is anybody that qualifies for our services that contacts us with a problem, like a lump, we bring them in and determine if they need a screening mammogram or diagnostic mammogram,” Meegan said. “We follow that all the way through to the very end, whether it’s surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. We open all the doors so that can happen. And we’ve been very successful in early detection.”
The annual Plaza Bella walk, this year called Knock Out Breast Cancer, has raised some $80,000 in the previous five years, Creager said.
“It is to honor survivors and remember the people that we’ve lost,” said Creager, a volunteer for the American Cancer Society for 13 years. “The whole event is very community driven, with a community feel to it. A lot of people tell me it is their favorite walk.”
Each year, the walk includes a survivor speaker.
In 2010 and 2011 the speaker was Antionette Cuellar. Last year, Cuellar lost her battle with cancer, Creager said.
“So, last year was a memorial to her and her family because she was such an outstanding advocate for survivors,” she said. “She was a role model to everyone.”
Creager said she has gotten support each year from the Center for Radiation Oncology and Total Diagnostics. This year, Women’s Diagnostic Center is also sponsoring the walk. Creager said Green Boutique, along with its sponsors, pays for the event, with all team contributions going directly to charity.
Pre-registration for the walk is suggested, to ensure that every participant gets a T-shirt and a goodie bag. There will be a disc jockey, refreshments and drawings.