ST. PETERSBURG — They walked for their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends — the women in their lives who have suffered with, fought against and died from breast cancer.
And they walked with hope that theirs could be the last generation to seek a cure for the disease that takes more than 40,000 lives a year in the United States.
"I walk so my daughter won't have to," said Theresa DeLellis, 34.
DeLellis and her friend MaryJane Calabrese, 43, both of Tampa, raised about $3,000 each for the Tampa Bay Breast Cancer 3-Day, which benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
The bay area event, in its fourth year, got under way Friday morning at Fort De Soto Park in south Pinellas and wrapped up Sunday evening at Spa Beach near the Pier in St. Petersburg. More than 1,500 people took part in the 60-mile walk.
Calabrese said they had to get creative this year, hosting garage sales and pink lemonade stands to raise money.
"People who were normally big donors were scaling back this year," she said.
All in all, the Tampa Bay area event raised $4.5-million, down from last year's $5.4-million and the $4.7-million raised in 2006, event officials said.
But overall, total donations for the event held in 14 cities is up this year, said event spokeswoman Jenne Fromm.
Fromm, who estimates fundraising this year will top the $86-million collected last year, said the lower total in the bay area was an anomaly, perhaps caused by the event falling on Halloween weekend. The walk was two weeks later this year to accommodate the scheduling of new walks in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Beverly Burns, 42, of St. Petersburg, walked in honor of two friends — one who died from the disease, and another, still fighting. The latter, whom Burns called her mentor, is battling her second round of the disease.
"If she can go through chemo at 72, I can do another 60 (miles)," said Burns, a veteran walker.
Her son Stuart stood nearby sporting a black and pink tutu and a pink bra over a T-shirt that said, "Sometimes you need more support than a bra." The 22-year-old was sporting a pink Rayhawk.
"It's a Boobhawk," he said.
As the wind whipped up and it started to drizzle, walkers hurried to don ponchos as they made their way from the finish line at Straub Park to the closing ceremony at Spa Beach.
A group of survivors took center stage as an "A World Without Breast Cancer" flag was hoisted high above the crowd.
"This flag is proof that we're here living, breathing and shouting with every step, 'We will never give up!' " Fromm said.
Participants linked arms, dabbed their eyes with tissues and pumped their fists into the air to celebrate the end of their emotional three-day trip.
Though the walk was ending, the journey was just beginning, Fromm said.
"Can you feel it?" she asked.
With energetic cheers and unrestrained tears, the pulsating sea of pink answered back: We can feel it.
Rita Farlow can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4162.