Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Taking It All in Stride; Young and Old Join Walk against Cancer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Taking It All in Stride; Young and Old Join Walk against Cancer

Article excerpt

Byline: Maggie FitzRoy, Shorelines staff writer

Third-graders hiked 5 miles along the beach Saturday morning for a classmate who is fighting bone cancer.

Friends and family braved the same dreary, chilly Jacksonville Beach shoreline for a 10-year old boy recovering from leukemia.

A Neptune Beach woman hit the sands for a friend who just had breast cancer surgery. She said she was walking for many others as well.

"I'm just walking for everybody," Susie Miller said. "To help keep up the fight."

About 500 people showed up for the Making Strides Against Cancer Walk this year, despite cold temperatures and dark clouds that threatened rain. This was the second year that the American Cancer Society event, previously at the Sawgrass Marriott, began at the Jacksonville Beach SeaWalk.

Before the walk began, many participants draped brightly colored stars on palm trees facing the ocean, each star representing a cancer victim. Students from teacher Ashley McCormick's thrid-grade class at Ocean Palms Elementary School in Ponte Vedra Beach attached a star for Amber Teetsell, a classmate who is fighting osteosarcoma.

"This is something I've done every year as a community project with my third-graders, but this year it has extra special meaning," said McCormick, who was there with 16 students and their parents. Teacher and students all wore bandanas on their heads in honor of Amber, who often wore one to school while getting chemotherapy treatments.

"We wish she were here," McCormick said of Amber, who is recovering from surgery. "She's in our hearts."

At 8:30 a.m., Austin Webb, 10, the event's honorary cancer survivor, stood on the stage and faced the crowd of participants. After blowing the horn that kicked off the walk, he joined his support team from Mayport Naval Station and headed north, 2 1/2 miles to the turnaround spot near the Sea Turtle Inn.

"He's been fighting cancer for two years now," said his dad, Paul Webb, naval fire control chief. "He's had several transfusions [for leukemia], but in the last eight months or so, he's been pretty healthy."

Another cancer survivor who felt healthy enough to join the walk, Kelly Cote of the west Beaches, was surrounded by a group of friends as she headed into the wind. The purple survivor's ribbon attached to her jacket flapped in the breeze as she headed north, clutching a cup of coffee. Cote said she wasn't walking for herself. The breast cancer survivor said she was walking for her daughter, sisters and friends.

Cote said she wanted to help raise funds for the American Cancer Society to help them continue to fight the disease. Her survival and recovery stemmed from yesterday's research, she said. She wanted to do her part to help tomorrow's victims.

"I got breast cancer at the same age as my mother," said Cote, whose 7-year-old daughter, Layne, also joined the walk. …

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