Making Strides walk helps N.H. breast cancer survivors connect in Concord

  • Melissa Paquette and Jan Young (right) both of Concord give each other a hug after climbing the riser for the survivor’s portrait at Memorial Field on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, before the 25th anniversary Making Strides walk. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Participants get a pom-pom cheer as they head for the finish line at the 25th Making Strides walk at Memorial Field on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Making Strides participants walk under the I-89 bridge on Clinton Street Sunday. This was the 25th anniversary of the event in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Coe-Brown Northwood soccer captain Kiley St. Francis (center with arms raised) leads her team as Michael St Germain of Concord Photo Service gets ready to take the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer team photo on Sunday October 15, 2017 at Memorial field. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Christine Crathern gets a high-five for making it another year at the Making Strides Against Cancer Walk at Memorial Field on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. Crathern was at the head of the line for the survivor’s walk. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Elaina Therrien, 2, of Sutton gets her photo taken by a family member before the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at Memorial Field on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. Elaina was walking with her mother for her MeMe, her grandmother. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Dayle Wollert (center) gets a double hug from fellow cancer survivors Pauline Steinmetz (left) and Patty Labrie at the Survivor’s tent at the Makings Strides Against Breast Cancer event at Memorial field on Sunday October 15, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Monday, October 16, 2017

Dayle Wollert of Concord has braved several battles with cancer and is a nine-year survivor, but she wiped away tears when fellow survivors Pauline Steinmetz and Patty Labrie offered her a hug.

“I love to give hugs,” Steinmetz said.

The three women were brought together by the Making Strides Against Cancer walk, a breast cancer fundraiser that celebrated its 25th year bringing in money for the American Cancer Society on Sunday.

“It is spiritual, and everybody you meet that has had breast cancer – it is a special camaraderie that everybody feels,” Steinmetz said.

The Making Strides walk has come a long way since it first hit Concord in 1992. That first year, the number of volunteers for the walk exceeded the participants.

Now, a quarter-century later, event Chairwoman Kathi Russ was eyeing a different set of numbers.

“We are back over a half-million dollars!” Russ exclaimed.

The news was welcome as the money raised climbed back above the mark after a down year in 2016. Russ noted the more than $100,000 in corporate sponsorship that played a part.

The exact total, $524,528, is one of the highest for a city the size of Concord and surrounding areas, according to Making Strides officials. The money goes directly to the American Cancer Society for research and to help people through and beyond cancer, Russ said.

But as positive as the increased money was, for the people there, the day wasn’t about a number. Or even about a walk. It was about the moments and experiences of the people whose stories intersected with the goal of raising money, awareness and a little hope for people touched by cancer.

Melissa Gates of Center Barnstead, also at the walk Sunday, said she came to the walk because she doesn’t want her two daughters to face the disease. While Gates said she hasn’t faced it herself, she did lose a friend this past year.

Even 2-year-old Elaina Therrien of Sutton, who has been at the Making Strides walk with her mother every year since she was born, walks for her grandmother, though the pink balloons around Memorial Field did offer a distraction from the solemn events around her.

The survivors’ walk, which culminated at the riser near the baseball field, was perhaps the most solemn moment of the day. The crowd fell quiet, and breast cancer survivors made their way the collage of quilts hanging from the stands of the field to have a photograph taken in front.

But even the hushed, reverent tone of the procession didn’t stop survivors from looking on the bright side.

“I’m still here,’’ quipped Christine Crathern as she got a high-five at the head of the survivors’ line.

That attitude typified survivors’ stories of their battles with breast cancer. As tears fell and stories of loss were shared, the message of the day was solidarity and positivity after the ordeals they’ve been through.

Before they were offering tearful hugs at Memorial Field, Steinmetz was there for Labrie on her journey five years ago, and it has been 13 years for Steinmetz, the pair said as they spoke with Wollert.

“They have walked this journey with us and we are all together, and Pauline was there for me,” Labrie added, pointing to the tears on their faces. “These are healing tears, not sad.”