Fun in the fall; Walk for the Cause kicks off annual Harvest Festival

Nearly 60 walkers, mostly women, strolled through town, beginning and ending at Weddle Bridge in Sankey Park, Saturday morning as part of Soroptimist International’s first annual Walk for the Cause in Sweet Home to raise funds for battling breast cancer.

The event was the first of the day for the third annual city Harvest Festival, which took place at the park from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“I think for the first year here in Sweet Home, it was really successful,” said Wendy Younger, who helped organize the walk.

“We received positive comments from the participants and I hope that if we can do it again in the future it will be even better.”

She noted that the Walk for the Cause in Albany, which also took place Saturday morning and is now in its 15th year, attracted 150 participants in its first year.

“I thought it was a pretty good turnout, especially since there was another event for the same cause at the same time,”

Younger said.

The walk raised “at least $2,000,” she said, which will go to Linn County organizations that work in preventing, detecting and treating cancer.

Mayor Craig Fentiman welcomed the participants, noting that “this disease will likely affect our family, friends or neighbors, but early detection is the key to winning the fight.”

The Linn/Benton Young Marines presented the colors and cancer survivor Cynde Burford, a teacher at Sweet Home High School, spoke to the participants before they set out on the walk, a choice of two routes of either 1.75 miles or just over 2.15 miles.

Burford told of her battle with cancer after a mammogram came up positive for a small but aggressive lump deep in her chest just after her 40th birthday.

She said she had “an expert” in fellow teacher Debi Temple, who had survived breast cancer and knew the ropes.

“I didn’t even know what an oncologist was before Debi explained it,” Burford said.

Another co-worker, Lisa Liermo, “was always finding crazy stuff, articles and information that she found interesting and pertinent to my cancer fight,” she said.

Burford said she missed two weeks of work €“ the longest she’d ever been out of the classroom €“ but got support from her students, colleagues, family members and fellow members of Hillside Fellowship. Chemotherapy lasted from October to April, and radiation required a daily drive after school each day to Eugene with her husband Bob, who chauffeured her to all her other appointments throughout her treatment as well.

“That June not only signaled the end of a school year, but the end of my treatment,” Burford said, adding that when she celebrated her birthday in July, “Happy Birthday had a different meaning. It truly became my victory song.”

She praised her students for not giving her “a hard time that year” and noted that students last year also showed compassion for Melissa Klumpf, another teacher who also was diagnosed with the disease and had to undergo treatments.

“Kindness goes a long way,” Burford said. “When the students see other students being kind, they will remember that, far into the future.”

She said cancer changed her “in many ways, including helping her own mother last year successfully battle the disease.

“I think that we all take health and life for granted as we go about our daily lives,” Burford said. “I appreciate my life so much more now that I have had cancer. Each and every day is a gift and I want to share that attitude with the people I meet.”

She said people can help those with cancer by listening and bouncing ideas back and forth.

“Be there for others facing a diagnosis and if you are faced with the bad news of a malignant tumor, confront your fears, take charge, know your options and fight back.

“Never underestimate the power of a mammogram.”

The Harvest Festival event included a farmers market, horse-drawn hay rides, tree climbing, craft vendors, pumpkin painting, games and live music.

Edene Flierl, city assistant planner, said the event was a success.

She said the attendance appeared to at least equal last year’s and indications were that more children partiicipated this year.

“We ordered 400 pumpkins and we went through nearly all of them,” she said. “That was twice what we went through last

year. A lot of kids definitely went through.”