LARGO — The first time Sheila Porter took this three-day, 60-mile walk across Pinellas County, it was miserable trudge.
“It was that first weekend in October, 100 degrees, walking on the trail, no breeze. It was horrible,” Porter said.
“By the time we were done, it was like, we will never do that again.”
Her team, Thanks for the Mammories, raised $16,000 during the 2005 Susan G. Komen Tampa Bay 3-Day walk for the national foundation that funds cutting-edge breast cancer research.
The memory of her sister, who succumbed to cancer the year before, drove Porter to sign up again.
“One of the things always in my head was my sister, when her’s metastasized to the brain, when they were doing chemo to the brain — that was in my head — how sick she was,” she said.
“The blisters, the aches and pains were nothing compared to that.”
Porter’s group has raised $820,000 over the years and its grown to 80 people, including a men’s team, SOBs – Sons, Others and Brothers – and dozens of supportive friends and family.
Their mood was festive during a lunch break Friday afternoon at Taylor Park in Largo, a stop-off in a walk that started at Sand Key Park in Clearwater and will end Sunday at Spa Beach Park in St. Petersburg.
Unfortunately, not every team has been as successful in recent years raising the $2,300 that each walker must collect to enter.
This weekend will be the last for the Tampa Bay-area event, among seven the foundation is ending due to the high costs of putting it on versus flagging participation.
In 2011, 1,850 walkers and their crew raised $3.9 million. This year, there’s 1,100 total, with 850 walking. Their total fundraising will be announced at 5 p.m. Sunday at Spa Beach Park. Since the first event in 2003, the foundation has raised more than $750 million.
The foundation’s other popular event, the Komen Florida Suncoast Race for the Cure, which benefits local breast cancer causes, will continue.
Organizers say the economic recession has put a damper on contributions in recent years.
The Dallas-based organization also took flak in 2012 for cutting funding of Planned Parenthood. The ensuing social media blowback led the group to change its position.
Event spokeswoman Sheri Phillips said the event could return to Tampa one day if fundraising starts to climb again, adding that her group seeks to maximize funds that go directly to research.
Members of Thanks for the Mammories hope that day comes soon. Janice Callway, who was 22 when her mother died of breast cancer, said the impact of the walk is apparent.
“You go home and watch TV and hear there’s a breakthrough and you say ‘Wow, that’s my money,’ ” she said.