MIDDELBURY — As many as 400 people came to Orchard View Elementary School Saturday morning to run and walk to raise funds to fight breast cancer.
Nicole Nelson and her 8-year old daughter, Arianna, came to Middlebury Walks for a Cure in honor of Nicole’s mother, Peggy Nelson, who battled breast cancer for four years after her diagnosis in 2001.
This year’s event was also childhood cancer and the Middlebury community.
“Middlebury is a small town, and connections run deep,” said the walk’s keynote speaker, Michelle Grewe. Her son, Sam, was diagnosed two years ago with osteosarcom, a rare form of bone cancera. “Sam went from the basketball court to the operating room to the hospital bed so quickly, it left our heads spinning, Grewe said. “As a family, we took off running and did everything we could. And then Middlebury kicked in, with signs, and messages on Facebook and visits and meals and cards. I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you.”
Sam chose to undergo a rotationplasty amputation and chemotherapy. He is 15 and a freshman at Northridge High School. He shows no evidence of disease, and will be checked regularly for five years.
“My role is to raise awareness of childhood cancer. If others hadn’t raised awareness to get the funds to do the research to find medicine and treatments that led to Sam’s health, then they wouldn’t have been there for him,” Grewe said. “Events like Middlebury Walks for a Cure really do help, because they raise awareness and funding to fight cancer.”
Middlebury Walks for a Cure surprised Grewe with a $1,000 check for the Ronald McDonald house.
Bradley Blackburn, 14, is a student at Northridge. He races a stock car and had it on display at the walk because it is decorated to raise awareness for childhood cancer. Names of his classmates who have had cancer are on it.
“I have known Will Mishler since kindergarten, and I’ve been in sports with Sam,” Bradley said
By chance, the T-shirts for this year’s walk were yellow. “When Michelle saw the shirts, she told us that is the color for childhood cancer,” said walk organizer and cancer survivor Nean Smith. “We didn’t know that when we picked yellow,”
Jeff and Becky Kiser came to the walk to celebrate that Jeff has been free of bladder cancer for eight years.
“We also came out because of all the interconnections in the Middlebury community. We know Gary Smith, Nean’s husband, and the Grewe family. We have a son who is in the same grade as Sam,” Jeff said.
“I am walking in honor of my mother, Sharon Bontrager, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and passed away in 2009,” said Amber Pauls. “I do this every year in honor of her.”
In the last eight years, Middlebury Walks for a Cure has raised more than $164,000 for United Cancer Services of Elkhart County Inc. and The Retreat Women’s Health Center at Indiana University Health Goshen to fight breast cancer.