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‘De-feeting’ cancer at annual walk

Circle of Hope hosts event at Castaic Lake for fifth year

Posted: April 18, 2009 10:57 p.m.
Updated: April 19, 2009 7:00 a.m.

Hundreds of people begin the walk at Castaic Lake in the Circle of Hope Walk on Saturday morning. The nonprofit organization provides medical financial aid to those in need.

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Hundreds of pink ribbons fluttered in the breeze Saturday as more than 750 breast-cancer survivors and supporters took steps to "de-feet" cancer at Circle of Hope's fifth annual Walk for Hope at Castaic Lake.

Walkers were also accompanied by more than 122 dogs, each one sporting its own a pink angel-of-hope bandana.

Angels are the symbol for the Circle of Hope, an organization that helps subsidize the cost of medical treatment for Santa Clarita Valley residents who are fighting breast cancer but who have little or no medical insurance.

The nonprofit provides up to $10,000 in medical financial aid, paying COBRA/HIPAA payments, insurance premiums, second opinions, co-payments for doctor visits and medications, chemotherapy and past-due surgical bills from a lumpectomy or mastectomy.

"What people don't realize are all of the expenses" of battling cancer, said Colleen Shaffer, Circle of Hope founder. "Survivorship is not cheap."

Shaffer knows first hand. For the last seven years, she's been fighting the cancer that metastasized into her hips, spine and liver. While she is in remission, the medication she must take every day costs nearly $4,000 a month.

"Circle of Hope was founded to support this community with all donations staying within this community to provide hope and medical financial aid," Shaffer said.

The Walk for Hope held Saturday was aimed at raising funds for Circle of Hope, and event co-chairwoman Anna Cortina said she believes it was the largest since the annual walk began in 2005.

Besides the walk itself, there were more than 38 vendors, up from 10 in 2008, offering everything from T-shirts to gourmet chocolate.

The Friends of Castaic Lake cooked up hamburgers and hot dogs for sale, and several pet-adoption services were on hand.
A classic-car show featured muscle cars, trucks, rare vintage cars and motorcycles.

Women came up to Shaffer all day to give her hugs. One of them was Becky Cordova - a truck driver, singer and two-time breast cancer survivor.

"I didn't have insurance when I got sick," Cordova said. "From the hospital, I found out Colleen had called TRW and taken care of my bills. She was fighting herself and went out of her way to help me; she is a real life saver."

As individuals and companies have become aware of Circle of Hope, support for the cause increases.

On Saturday, Janie Harris Hansen and her husband, Wallace Manning, presented Shaffer with a $10,000 check from the Harris Family Foundation.

"We were just tickled to find Circle of Hope; they are one of the few charities that really help people," Manning said.

Boston Scientific of Valencia, which signed on to support Circle of Hope for the first time this year, also cited the charity's local involvement.

President Michael Onuscheck challenged his employees to contribute, and by Friday they had collected more than $2,260, with $5,000 in matching funds, according to Alicia Law and Shelly Slater, who coordinated the company's outreach program.

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