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Updated: 08/13/2014 08:00:02AM

Making Strides Against Cancer kicks off

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Haines City breast cancer survivor Debbie Hancock talks about her “Debbie's Divas” team's successful fund-raising strategies at Thursday's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign kick off in Lakeland,


Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk chairman Mark Stokes and co-chairwoman Dawn Stokes talk to prospective team leaders in Lakeland.


Breast cancer survivor Lisa Henderson of Polk City shares her survival story with prospective Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk team leaders at the kick-off in Lakeland.


This year's Strides Against Breast Cancer walk kicked off Thursday at Paint Along Studios in downtown Lakeland where team leaders for the Oct. 25 walk were recruited.


Debbie McLean of WPCV Radio talks with the group of prospective fund-raising team leaders for this year's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on Oct. 25 at Mosaic Park in Bartow.


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While the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk isn’t until Oct. 25, in Mosaic Park in Bartow, the American Cancer Society kicked off the campaign Thursday with a team leader meeting in Lakeland.

Debbie McLean of Hall Communications emceed the meeting and shared her own personal reasons for joining the fight against the disease that ravishes so many women. McLean told the sparse group that her mother was a 15-year breast cancer survivor and following that experience, she had dedicated herself to the cause.

“I do this for the survivors and for those who lost the battle,” she told the would-be fundraising team leaders. “This has become my passion.”

Her passion is shared by this year’s co-chairmen, Mark and Dawn Stokes. Stokes, who led the Walmart Distribution Center in Winter Haven’s walk team last year, will be steering this year’s walk. Stokes said his mother, “the rock of the family” died of breast cancer some 24 years ago, but he recalled how devastating her terminal diagnosis was. “It was horrible and I don’t want anyone else to go through that and lose their mom when they are only 28.”

Stokes said both he and Dawn had participated in a Lakeland walk around Lake Hollingsworth, the walk at Fantasy of Flight and missed last year’s walk in Bartow. “I had to work that day, but this year, I made sure I signed up to be off on Oct. 25th.” He added that the Walmart team had from 65 to 70 members last year.

McLean told the group that this year’s sponsors of the walk include Radiology and Imaging Specialists, KW Graden Foundation, Watson Clinic, 97 Country radio station, ABC Action News and the Lakeland Ledger.

Last year, according to ACS, Central Florida had 17,000 walkers and raised $580,000 and the walk in Bartow alone raised $108,000 and involved 2,000 walkers.

Also on Thursday, survivor Lisa Henderson of Polk City shared her story from diagnosis to treatment; as did Haines City survivor and team captain for Debbie’s Divas, Debbie Hancock.

Henderson shared how the American Cancer Society’s “Look Good, Feel Better” program had helped her regain her self-esteem after undergoing numerous surgeries and rigorous and aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She also talked about the Young Survivors Coalition, also sponsored by the ACS, which helps younger women cope with the disease.

The meeting, held at Paint Along Studios in Lakeland, informed the prospective team leaders that each team should have 10 members and each should raise $100 per member. Hancock explained that her team already had planned a yard sale, a Facebook page and a raffle to raise funds for the cure.

McLean also said there “are four steps to finish the fight.” They are: be a team leader; recruit a team; raise funds; and “walk for a world without breast cancer.”

Registration is available online at the cancer society website or by calling 800-227-2345.

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