2,000 join walk to battle breast cancer

Participants take part in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Gainesville, Oct. 13, 2012. The theme of the walk was "Put on Your Pink Bra."

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 7:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 7:42 p.m.

Thousands of Gainesville residents, many wearing pink bras, pink boas or strands of neon pink beads, helped raise money and awareness in the fight against breast cancer Saturday at the 9th annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at Northeast Park.

But while some walking groups sported traditional colors and costumes, others, like the Boogie Woogie Boobies, sought more flair.

Dressed as Blue-Footed Boobies, small, pelican-looking birds of the Galapagos Islands named for their blue feet, Bonnie Bernau, Rusti Brandman and nine other close friends took on the Breast Cancer Walk for the second year in a row.

With blue foam flippers taped to their shoes, pink feathers strung through their clothing and cardboard beaks over their noses, the Boogie Woogie Boobies brought lightness to a serious disease that darkens hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

"It's fun to dress up, be kind of goofy and raise money for a good cause," said Brandman, 66.

According to Amanda Granozio, the Boogie Woogie Boobies, along with about 2,000 walkers and 150 cancer survivors, helped raise $19,000 toward breast cancer awareness on Saturday.

"For us, it's a symbol of how personal the fight is against breast cancer," Granozio said. "It's a great way for people to support their breast cancer survivors and remember those lost."

Instead of walking through downtown, this year's walking groups meandered through the historic Duck Pond neighborhood behind Northeast Park because of the Downtown Festival and Art Show.

The change of scenery dampened no one's spirits, particularly Bernau's.

"Looking good!" she said to each volunteer she passed, offering a smile or a round of laughter.

Her joy was hardly feigned. Each day is precious to her now. When she was 45, Bernau, now a 61-year-old program director at the Harn Museum, was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer.

"It's a shock when you hear that word," she said. "The diagnosis is terrifying."

At the time, she was far from home, alone in Washington, D.C., with a new job in art administration.

Cycles of chemotherapy followed.

She gladly let the doctors at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital cut out both breasts and said with a close support network, she survived the ordeal. Since her operation, the cancer has never returned.

"Knock on wood," she said. "I went through a year of pure hell with chemotherapy, but now I'm here to talk about it. I can go on with my life."

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