DANVILLE — Sherri Ellis had no intention of getting a mammogram — until her sister died of breast cancer last year.
“It wasn’t even on my radar,” said Ellis, human resources specialist at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System.
Now, she hopes others become aware of how much breast cancer can affect not only the patient, but those around her, adding, “Awareness is the key.”
With that in mind, organizers of the second annual Breast Cancer Awareness Walk and Candle Lighting Ceremony hope people will turn out to learn more about the disease and show their support for those who have battled it.
The 1-mile walk will start at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the VA, 1900 E. Main St.
“We’re hoping we can get a lot of community support,” said Rana Shouse, patient centered care coordinator at the VA. “Breast cancer affects not only the person who has it, but everyone who cares about her.”
Last year, about 100 people participated.
Registration will start at 4 p.m. at the pavilion; signs will be placed at the main drive to direct people to the starting point. Parking is available at the nearby Bremer Center at Danville Area Community College.
There is no fee to participate; however, people may make donations that day, if they wish. Seventy-five percent of all donations will go to New Horizons Support Group and 25 percent will be used by the Federal Women’s Program to sponsor future events.
Last year, more than $1,000 was donated to New Horizons, part of the Presence United Samaritans Medical Center Foundation.
“We’re accepting donations, but this is more about community awareness and support,” Ellis said.
Tuesday’s event is sponsored by the Federal Women’s Program, the Employee Association and the Women Veterans’ Program at the VA.
Signs will be available for people to carry — showing whether they’re survivors, supporting someone with breast cancer or honoring someone who lost the battle.
Shouse said, “We want to encourage women going through the traumatic experience of breast cancer. They can be surrounded by people who have survived it, and feel their support.”
Before the walk, a 14-year survivor of breast cancer will give her testimony. There also will be informational booths set up, and Robinson Chiropractic will give a demonstration. Important information about breast cancer risk factors, disease and early detection will be available.
After the walk, there will be a candlelight ceremony at the pond — a new feature this year.
Everyone is invited to take part in the walk — not only women, but also men and children.
Earlier that day, the Women Veterans’ Program will hand out information about breast cancer and answer questions in the “hub” near the canteen from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The national “Pink Out” is held at VA’s throughout the country; each facility decides which day to observe it.
With October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Illiana decided to have its Pink Out on the first day of the month.
“Why not start off the month with a bang?” said Ebun Croom-Osaze, program manager and physician assistant with the women’s clinic at the VA.
The VA is offering more gender-specific services for women veterans, she said, adding, “The VA is advancing women’s health care and recognizing the importance.”
The Federal Women’s Program, which was re-established last year, offers a variety of services to help women veterans with their physical and emotional needs.
FYI For more information regarding this walk or the Federal Women's Program, email Rana Shouse at Rana.Shouse@va.gov or call her at 554-5270 or email Sherrie Ellis at Sherrie.Ellis@va.gov or call 554-5955.