WEIRTON - Pink was more than just a color in Weirton Thursday, as more than 150 area residents gathered to spread a message of hope and support for those living with breast cancer.
C.H.A.N.G.E., Inc. partnered with Athena's Closet and others to "Paint the Town Pink," with a walk through downtown Weirton in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Proceeds from the walk, which also was supported by the City of Weirton, the Weirton Fire Department and the Downtown Business Association, will benefit the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program and Athena's Closet.
"This is our second-annual event, and I can see it's another great success," Judy Raveaux, chief executive officer of C.H.A.N.G.E., said in welcoming participants.
Walkers, many decked in pink with a variety of slogans, began the event in the parking lot of C.H.A.N.G.E., Inc. on West Street, traveling north to Taylor Avenue and then south along Main Street to Cove Commons.
"Everyone here has a reason for walking," Raveaux said, noting she has a cousin currently going through treatment.
WALK TO RAISE AWARENESS — More than 150 area residents walked through downtown Weirton Thursday to “Paint the Town Pink” and raise awareness of breast cancer in the community. Proceeds from the walk will benefit Athena’s Closet and the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. -- Craig Howell
SEA OF PINK — Participants gathered in Cove Commons following the walk for refreshments, prizes and camaraderie. -- Craig Howell
SCREENING STRESSED — Mary McKinley, a nurse for more than 40 years and wife of U.S. Rep. David McKinley, speaks to those taking part in the walk Thursday. According to McKinley, one in four women are never screened for breast cancer, and 200 West Virginia women have died from the disease in 2012. -- Craig Howell
PINK PROCLAMATION — Organizers of Thursday’s walk gathered prior to the event to receive a proclamation from Weirton Mayor George Kondik in recognition of their work to help those with cancer. Taking part in the presentation are, from left, Tina Owen, representing the Downtown Business Association; C.H.A.N.G.E. CEO Judy Raveaux, Kondik, Debbie Savage and Dawn Ohalek, of C.H.A.N.G.E., and Marie Fazalare and Georgia Anetakis of Athena’s Closet. -- Craig Howell
The Weirton Sassy Lassies of the Red Hats Society lent their support to the walk, which helped to raise awareness of breast cancer. -- Craig Howell
Members of the Alpha Tau Chapter of West Virginia Alpha Delta Kappa were among those taking part in Thursday's walk. -- Craig Howell
Marie Fazalare, a founding member of Athena's Closet, explained the organization has held a walk for 13 years, and by teaming with the other organizations, the message of hope can be spread even farther.
"It's double the fun, double the love, double the blessings," Fazalare said.
Also in attendance was Mary McKinley, wife of U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-Wheeling, and a nurse for more than 40 years.
McKinley explained breast cancer is the most common diagnosed form of cancer for women, and the Northern Panhandle has the highest rate of invasive breast cancer in the state.
Events such as Thursday's walk, however, help to raise awareness of the disease and provide a sense of hope and support for those living with it.
"Pink is not just a color," she said. "Pink is an attitude."
Pink, she said, represents the caring, courage and commitment needed for those with breast cancer, helping to raise awareness and encourage screening for the disease while also looking for a cure.
In addition to the walkers, several Weirton businesses have been showing their support this week by decorating their storefronts with pink ribbons and other items.
Mayor George Kondik also was on hand, presenting a proclamation to honor those involved in organizing the event.
"I'm so pleased to see so many taking part," Kondik said, noting the increased number of participants rallying together to raise awareness of breast cancer.
Athena's Closet was formed in 2000 in honor and memory of Athena Ameredes, a Weirton resident who died following a battle with cancer. It was founded by her friends, including Fazalare, Loretta Lescallette, Patti Blanc, Maria Kiefer and Georgia Anetakis. Money raised by the organization helps cancer patients with pharmacy and medical bills, prosthetics, wigs, travel expenses and other costs not usually covered by insurance.
The West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program was created by the state Legislature to provide a fund to pay for diagnostic and limited treatment for uninsured women in West Virginia who otherwise might not be able to afford the services.
(Howell can be contacted at email@example.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)