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Walk is an emotional rallying cry for cancer research

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 October 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Karen Watt, co-owner of Watt Farms Country Market, addresses the crowd this morning before the start of the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at the farm on Route 98 in Albion.

Larry Montello, front center, waves while he joins other walkers at the start of the walk at Watt Farms. Montello was part of a team from Community Action that walked in memory of Kathy LaLonde.

ALBION – Karen Watt took a walk through the orchards of Watt Farms today, carrying her 1-year-old grandson Evan on her back.

Watt is thankful for the chance to be a part of his life. About a decade ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She credits breakthroughs in research for improved treatment. Otherwise, the cancer might have killed her long before Evan was born.

“It’s precious the time I have with him as a grandmother,” Watt told a big crowd of several hundred people at today’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at Watt Farms. “I wouldn’t have it without those who went before me.”

Watt and her husband Chris have hosted the Making Strides walk for nine years now. It has become a mega-event, drawing about 800 people who raise about $50,000 for the American Cancer Society in Western New York.

Jeanne Wormuth, a breast cancer survivor from Elba, is pictured with her husband A.J.

Some of that money supports research, and some goes to patients and their families battling the disease. Watt lamented the loss of “two pillars of the community,” who recently died from cancer. Kathy LaLonde of Albion was an active community volunteer. She was 54 when she died on Oct. 6.

Judy Christopher, another Albion community volunteer and business owner, was 70 when she died on Aug. 3.

Friends and family of LaLonde and Christopher both formed groups to walk the orchard today and raise memory of the two women. LaLonde was a grant writer at Community Action before taking a job at Brockport State College.

Annette Finch, a former co-worker of Kathy LaLonde at Community Action of Orleans and Genesee, wore a shirt in memory of LaLonde during today’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at Watt Farms Country Market in Albion. LaLonde died from cancer on Oct. 6.

Although she stopped working at Community Action about a decade ago, many of her former co-workers showed up in force today, wearing T-shirts in her honor.

“She was an integral part of Community Action,” said Annette Finch, director of community services for the agency. “We just loved her to no end.”

LaLonde was instrumental in starting the Angels in Action program, which has built a big network of volunteers and supporters for the agency and its clients.

The Community Action staff walked in memory of Kathy LaLonde.

Christopher lived in Albion and Carlton. “The Ladies of the Lake,” a group of about 35 of her friends and neighbors, all walked the orchard in Christopher’s memory this morning. Many wore a sticker with her saying to “Keep Moving.”

Karen Blank, owner of the Whole Approach in Holley, worked for Christopher when she owned Phoenix Fitness, a health club in Albion. Blank formed a team from her Holley gym in honor of Christopher.

“We’re here because of the loss of our beautiful friend Judy Christopher,” Blank said. “This is a cause that is near and dear to most women’s hearts.”

Jeanne Wormuth of Elba attended the walk a year ago when she was in the throes of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She returned today as a cancer survivor. She wants to help raise money for research.

“I benefitted from the past people and the advances in treatment,” she said.

Kathy Williams, a breast cancer survivor for 13 years now, urges a crowd of several hundred people to keep advocating for cancer research through private donations and government funding.

The walk today included teams from CRFS in Albion and Medina, the Holley Fire Department, and Albion, Kendall, Byron-Bergen and Elba central schools, as well as numerous other groups.

Elba and Byron-Bergen have a combined football team. The 38 players and their coaches joined for the walk today. One player had a father die from cancer and other players have parents fighting the disease.

Coach Mike Cintorino said the group raised more than $1,500 for the Cancer Society.

Members of the Elba Lancers were part of today’s breast cancer walk at Watt Farms.