Walk Ahead

Some walkers carry balloons and signs for their own loved ones and friends experiencing cancer during the Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure Sunday morning. 

The Cincinnati community gathered for the fifth annual Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure 5K walk-run Sunday, raising approximately $300,000 to support brain tumor research.

The event is hosted by the University of Cincinnati Brain Tumor Center’s Community Advisory Council and typically takes place around Halloween, according to Dr. Ronald Warnick, director of the center.

Over 3,000 people participated in the event, which began at 8:00 a.m. for those who ran the 5K and at 8:45 a.m. for those who walked. Participants started and concluded at Sawyer Point Park.

Warnick helped manage the event, and is in charge of assigning the money raised from the walk.

“I am responsible for using this money responsively for patient education and research,” Warnick said. “So, we have an annual patient education symposium that’s free to patients, and the walk funds that aspect.” 

The money raised by the walk also provides pilot grants, also known as exploratory grants, which are used to fund researchers at UC’s medical school who are working on the next cure for a brain tumor, Warnick said.

Warnick noted the growing success the event has achieved over the few years it has existed, citing the exponential growth in participants and particularly the substantial money raised for brain tumor research.

“We’ve raised $1,000,000 [over 5 years] for brain tumor research and education,” Warnick said. “We’re about 50 percent ahead of last year. But, the first year we only raised just short of $100,000 from about 1,500 walkers … So we’re going to triple [the amount raised the first year] in just 5 years.”

In his speech before the 5K began, Warnick announced the money raised from last year’s walk allowed Dr. Atsuo Sasaki, assistant professor of medicine, to devise a strategy to kill cancerous neuroblastoma cells.

Sasaki’s research was further funded by the National Institute of Health, which awarded the UC Brain Tumor Center $1.67 million to continue its groundbreaking research. 

The event was filled with numerous teams, which consisted of groups of people that walked and raised money for their loved ones diagnosed with a brain tumor or who have passed away from a brain tumor. Teams ranged from two members to over 40 members, each decked out with their own personal flair and custom T-shirts.

One team of 19 members named the “Tumonators” supported UC alumnus Billy Waldeck, a speech pathology graduate afflicted with a brain tumor. Waldeck was happy to report that he was in partial remission according to a scan he had the week before. 

“Back in January I was diagnosed with an astrocytoma glioma brain tumor, and I went for radiation treatment for five days a week for six weeks over the summer,” Waldeck said. “The latest scan has shown that it has shrunk, but obviously there is still something there, so we got to give more time.”

This was Waldeck’s first walk, but he was grateful for support from his family, peers and other walkers.

“We’ve raised a lot of money [for research] so I’m just glad,” Waldeck said. “I mean I’ve never met the people [attending the walk] before, but I feel like it’s one big community. Everyone’s very accepting and friendly. It’s nice knowing that you have people behind you, family and friends willing to wake up at the crack of dawn to come walk for you.”

About 30 UC students from Cats for Cause, 60 volunteers from Mt. Saint Joseph University and other volunteers from various backgrounds joined forces to help register the walk-on participants joining the day of the walk. Along with helping the registration process, the volunteers distributed purple T-shirts to survivors and gray T-shirts to participants in the event.

Hayley Montgomery, a first-year biology of animals student, helped with preregistration by distributing tags and T-shirts.

“It’s nice seeing all the teams and all the people,” Montgomery said. “We talked to one lady who almost started crying. It was her first year without her husband.”

Andi Mapes has served as the event’s volunteering coordinator since its first year in 2009. Mapes learned of the walk from her daughter when she was in eighth grade and showed interest in volunteering.

“We signed up to walk the first year, and so many people showed up the day of that one of our friends grabbed us and said, ‘Can you please help us register these people?’ and we’ve done it ever since.”

Mapes encourages all those who can support the cause to do so in any way they can.

“The event, along with all the volunteers and everybody that participates — we all have a responsibility to give what we can,” Mapes said. “Sometimes it’s time, sometimes it’s money. There’s a face to every cause. It might be the person next to you, so if you can give, give.”