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Pink Light Walk brings awareness to the West End

Dozens upon dozens of survivors, friends and families gathered at the American Legion Post 927 in Gilbert on Thursday night for the 14th annual West End Pink Light Walk, and if you saw the crowd trekking along Route 209, you know their message is clear.

“Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Breast cancer has got to go!” cheered the Girl Scouts of Troop 52309 as they led the way, banner in tow.

The theme of awareness saturated the air, with tons of pink shirts, glow sticks, hats and even an ambulance taking a lap down Route 209, through the Gilbert Medical Plaza, and up Fairgrounds Road to return to the VFW.

Pink Light committee member Hope Christman said that the event went quite well this year, though a bit of sorrow naturally permeated the march.

“Sadly, unfortunately last year, on the night of our Pink Light Walk, our dear friend Mary Sciandra passed away. She had moved from the area, but she was one of our committee members for life,” Christman said. “We dedicated tonight in her memory and her honor. We know she’s with us and we know when we’re out there with our pink candles held high, she is looking down on us and smiling.”

Carmela Heard, a survivor of 29 years, kicked off the walk by leading a stretch session with help from the Girl Scouts. Once the gang hit the road, chants of “I don’t know but I’ve been told, breast cancer is mighty cold, I don’t know but I can tell, breast cancer can go to heck/hell,” pierced the night.

Though the West End march may come off as somewhat remote, Christman indicated that in a way, it helped foster stronger relationships between the walkers themselves.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere. This is a rural community, a rural road. There’s no support from people honking their horns as they walk by like you would if you were in a town with sidewalks. What makes ours special is that it is the people who are actually out there walking on that road are making those bonds, making those friendships, talking to each other, getting to know each other, supporting each other, without any interruptions,” Christman said.

One of the originators of the West End walk, Mariann Ferro, has had far too many instances of breast cancer in her family, even suffering the loss of one of her sisters. But Ferro has been able to turn that tragedy into passion, motivating others to spread awareness and stay on top of their own health.

“I have three sisters who were diagnosed with breast cancer,” Ferro said. “The first one was diagnosed 14 years ago, when we did our first walk in Stroudsburg. That’s when I said to Hope, ‘Why can’t we do this in our town?’ And she said, ‘We can do it,’ so we started it. To let these people know that this can happen at any age, you don’t have to be over 40, you need to go and get a mammogram if you have a family history, that’s what inspires me.”

The crowd returned to the VFW for refreshments, raffles and a special presentation for Look Good Feel Better — an organization that works with the American Cancer Society and various cosmetics groups to provide makeovers and free name-brand makeup for those going through cancer — before they were graced with a special performance.

The girls of Cartesion Dance Academy performed an intricate routine to the tune of Melissa Etheridge’s “I Run for Life” at the VFW, garnering multiple standing ovations from survivors and their families.

The evening was rounded out with the lighting of a Chinese lantern in memory of Mary Sciandra and her “larger-than-life personality.”

Heard was thrilled with the event, and especially pleased with the performances, the participation from the Girl Scouts, and the unity between survivors, friends and family in raising awareness and funding for breast cancer treatment and research.

“They always do such a nice job,” she said. “It’s all the community, the awareness it brings. You see the camaraderie? You have the families and the support systems with them. For me, that was really, really touching, because support was the most important thing to me. The Girl Scouts, and what they did … look at the awareness they have, and at such a young age. And that’s what it’s all about, making sure that they are always aware.”

The Girl Scouts of Troop 52309 lead the way for West End’s 14th Annual Pink Light Walk in Gilbert. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app for a video from the evening. BRIAN W. MYSZKOWSKI/TIMES NEWS
The girls of the Cartesion Dance Academy perform a routine set to Melissa Etheridge’s “I Run for Life” following the Pink Light Walk.
Lehigh Valley’s Pink Heals truck made a stop at the West End Pink Light Walk.