Breast cancer can go take a hike

On Saturday, October 25, thousands of people from across Brevard County will gather at Space Coast Stadium to help stop breast cancer, the most common cancer in women worldwide. It is estimated that just over 12 percent of women will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetimes – and that’s a one in eight chance.

That’s why the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, hosted by the American Cancer Society (ACS) in more than 300 communities across the nation, is designed to raise awareness, celebrate survivors and raise funds to combat the disease.

“The American Cancer Society spends more money from the funds that they raise of the gracious donations of volunteers for research, and that’s where they’re finding the cures,” said Lana Saal, Ph.D. director of the Brevard County Schools Employee Wellness Program.

Saal became chair of the new Space Coast Volunteer Leadership Council (VLC) earlier this year, an organization that was formed to replace the board of the American Cancer Society’s Brevard County Unit in order to increase their service and involvement in the community. Through the change, their leadership remained largely the same. Saal was on the board for about six years before this, and a couple of years ago she served as event chair for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

She now sits on the state board for the event and considers it her area of passion. Her work on the event in Brevard helped increase participation from about 1,000 people to about 11,000.

“We get to celebrate our survivors, and just raise awareness for the women in the area to get their annual mammograms,” she said.

And it’s not just women who make the survivor walk. “We also have boys up here, because a small percentage, about two percent of the cases diagnosed of breast cancer, are in men,” she said.

When the walk came to Brevard 10 years ago, ACS held it at Brevard Community College (now Eastern Florida State College) and just a few hundred participants showed up. As they continued to promote the event it outgrew the college, moved to the Avenue, and eventually wound up at the stadium, where the three-mile walk begins and ends this year.

People come out with their pink on, and the last few years Florida tried this theme. It was called ‘Put on Your Pink Bra,’ just to kind of make the American Cancer Society stand out and to show – girls’ bras are generally pretty personal, as is their battle with breast cancer, so that was the tie-in. So we did that a couple years ago and guess what? We had a lot of men who came out. People got creative. We had a guy who’d fashioned pinwheels on his pink bra. They were rolling in the wind,” Saal said.

Participants can walk alone or join a team, and are encouraged to sign up and set a fundraising goal ahead of time. The money raised will fund breast cancer research, education, advocacy and patient services.

“A lot of fundraising goes on for breast cancer research, but American Cancer Society’sresearch makes the difference. Women being diagnosed, having treatment, having successful treatment and surviving,” she said.

“If you or someone you know is a survivor of cancer, chances are it’s a result of the work American Cancer Society has done in research, education, and advocacy,” Saal said. 

To sign up for the walk or get more information, visit

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