Families lap Lake Calhoun for cancer

The walk was co-hosted by the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

Karolyn Barrett, age 6, learns a dance to warm up for the walk Sunday afternoon at Lake Calhoun for the Cure Search Walk.

Erin Westover

Karolyn Barrett, age 6, learns a dance to warm up for the walk Sunday afternoon at Lake Calhoun for the Cure Search Walk.

Kathryn Elliott

More than 500 people walked the 3-mile path around Lake Calhoun on Sunday in support of kids with cancer.

The walk was hosted by two of MinnesotaâÄôs leaders in pediatric oncology: the University of Minnesota Amplatz ChildrenâÄôs Hospital and ChildrenâÄôs Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota âÄî but it was the product of a grassroots core of people invested in curing cancer.

Many teams of fundraisers gathered before the walk in matching shirts. A clown made balloons for children like 5-year-old Edra Clements from Rochester, Minn., who has been in remission from a cancerous bone tumor for two years.

The family went through 17 rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation. Edra just started kindergarten, and the walk was her familyâÄôs first big fundraising event.

âÄúWeâÄôre just getting far enough out from it that we can deal,âÄù said Lucinda Clements, her mother.

When CureSearch for ChildrenâÄôs Cancer, a nonprofit foundation that runs fundraising walks in cities nationally, called pediatric oncology leaders at the two hospitals about doing a Minneapolis walk, a committee of roughly two dozen research staff members, family members and care providers formed, said Amanda Galster, a research manager at Amplatz.

 The committee created sign-up sheets for different tasks. Several nurses took charge of recruiting 30 volunteers to make the event happen, and another group worked on logistics like tables, food and an emcee.

âÄúThese were the people who were closest to the patients âÄî who feel passionate about what we do every day, rather than hospital administration,âÄù Galster said.

At one of the first committee meetings, Galster said organizers talked about a realistic fundraising goal and decided on $50,000. They reached their goal a week before the walk and continued fundraising. By Sunday afternoon, they had raised more than $75,000.

Dr. Brenda Weigel, the University of MinnesotaâÄôs division director for pediatric hematology and oncology, spoke at SundayâÄôs event.

About one of every 300 children in Minnesota is diagnosed with cancer every year, she said âÄî one in every school.

The survival rate for children diagnosed with cancer has risen from 10 percent to almost 80 percent, she said.

Amplatz is one of only 20 hospitals in the country, and the only one in the five-state region, with âÄúPhase OneâÄù status âÄî approval to test a new drug for the first time in a population.

Lexi Maciej, a pediatric oncology nurse at Amplatz, walked with her family on Sunday. Maciej said that while she wants to raise money to improve life expectancy for her patients, itâÄôs equally important to focus on celebrating patientsâÄô personal milestones.

âÄúThe support a young man receives when returning to the field after cancer has forced him to leave the sport he loves. The first joyous days of kindergarten for a young girl following years of treatment,âÄù she said. âÄúWe also honor those for whom cure was not possible. Those children who are no longer physically present in our lives but who will never leave our minds and hearts.âÄù

The largest team at the walk âÄî with about 70 people âÄî raised $15,000 in honor of Max Bulman, the infant son of University alumni Corey and Mimi Bulman. From MaxâÄôs birth Oct. 2, 2010 until March 2, 2011, the Bulmans slept on a futon in his room at ChildrenâÄôs Hospitals and Clinics.

âÄúOur last year has been really wrapped up in the fight,âÄù Corey Bulman said. He called the outpouring of support at the walk âÄúawe-inspring.âÄù

Ultimately, the walk raises money for CureSearch to fund research trials by the ChildrenâÄôs Oncology Group, through which both hospitals  conduct research.