Record number of participants for 8th annual Steppin' Out in Pink

Published On: Sep 07 2013 05:48:07 PM CDT   Updated On: Sep 09 2013 03:11:42 PM CDT
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

La Crosse was a vision in pink Saturday as a sea of 6,600 people dressed in pink took to the La Crosse streets to join the fight against breast cancer.

It's the Steppin' Out in Pink event's largest turnout since it started eight years ago. Last year, 5,600 people participated.

Participants walk a 4.5 mile loop around the La Crosse's south side as volunteers offer refreshments and music entertainment along the way.

The event is a fundraiser and organizers hope the steps taken this year will get them closer to their goal of finding a cure.

"We're just hoping with what we're doing here today, that we will be able to find that hope for others that we don't have to be doing this walk any longer," said Debbie Kroner, special events manager for the Gundersen Medical Foundation.

There were many breast cancer survivors among Saturday's participants.

Every survivor has their own unique story to tell about their battle with breast cancer, but it's that common thread of triumph that makes them stronger -- knowing they're not alone.

Karen Gleson looks forward to Steppin' Out in Pink every year.

"We put it on our calander," said Gleson. "It's right up there before Cranfest."

She has participated in every single walk since the event began eight years ago. It's become a tradition for her as a breast cancer survivor.

"For me to be alive 19 years later, and be part of this community, is just an awesome experience," said Gleson. "I love it every year."

In 1994, Gleason was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer.

"It was a really scary diagnosis at that time because when you talked about cancer, you talked about death," said Gleson.

Also among the thousands on the walk was Barb Shull, another breast cancer survivor.

"This is my fifth year for doing the walk," said Shull.

But not only is this her fifth year participating, it's also her fifth year of being cancer free -- meaning no more doctor visits and no more medications. It's considered a milestone for breast cancer patients.

"It just marks almost a graduation point for me," said Shull. "So it's just a celebration all together."

Step by step, the survivors and their supporters start the 4.5 mile journey, and finish together as a community supporting one another in the fight againt breast cancer.

"It reminds me that we're all together, and that there are other people who share my journey, and that's very reassuring and very comforting," said Gleson. "Yeah, I love it."

Organizers won't know the final total of funds raised until later next week, but so far just online more than $100,000 raised for the walk.

Collected proceeds will go to fund breast cancer research, as well as mammograms for people uninsured or under-insured. Some of it will also go toward Paula's Purse, a foundation through Gundersen Health System that provides financial help to breast cancer patients.

This year's event would not have been possible without the help of 400 volunteers.