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Walking to give children life

About 300 walkers raise more than $26,000 for cancer research at “A Walk in the Park” fundraiser

Posted: June 20, 2009 8:37 p.m.
Updated: June 21, 2009 4:55 a.m.

"A Walk in the Park" Ambassador Brandon Martinez, left, and Six Flags Magic Mountain President Jay Thomas welcome the walkers before sending them on their way.

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A theme park typically roaring with roller coasters and shrilling screams hosted a subdued scene Saturday morning with the footsteps and conversations of those walking to combat children's cancers.

More than 300 local residents participated in the second "A Walk in the Park" program hosted by Six Flags Friends and Cure Kids Cancer to raise money for pediatric cancer research and treatment. Participants in this year's Six Flags Magic Mountain walk-a-thon raised more than $26,000 - exceeding the park's $25,000 goal - to benefit the Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Magic Mountain President Jay Thomas said once the proceeds of Six Flags Friends $1 handprints - purchased daily by park visitors year-round - are counted, the total amount raised would be closer to $45,000 to $50,000.

Every 30 minutes a family learns their child has cancer, Thomas said as he informed the crowd of the leading cause of death among children.

"You never know what age cancer is going is going to hit," Thomas said. "When I think about my family and what a devastating blow that would be - you just can't help but want to help find a cure."

Before Magic Mountain opened to the public at 10:30 a.m., walkers of all ages sporting meaningful T-shirts and tennis shoes took on a close to one-and-a-half mile hilly trek around the theme park.

"There's very little funding for pediatric cancer. We need to do everything we can for kids who have to battle through this," said Marjorie Lusk, of Santa Clarita, as she began her walk.

Lusk lost her daughter, Tanner Christine Lusk, to Ewing's sarcoma in September of 2007.

Tanner underwent four brain surgeries and a stem cell transplant and yet her mother said, "she never felt sorry for herself." Tanner was 8 years old when cancer claimed her life.

Lusk walked with about 25 of her daughter's friends and relatives, all of whom wore bright blue T-shirts with Tanner's name scrawled across the front and her favorite phrases like, "It can happen to anyone," in reference to cancer.

One group walked for their friend Jeff McIntyre, a local man who recently lost his battle with colon cancer at the age of 46.

"I'm trying to level cancer's score card," said Lisa Walsh, of Valencia, a friend of McIntyre's. "There are too many people on the cancer side."

The group would also attend McIntyre's memorial service later in the day.

"This (walk-a-thon) is for kid's cancer, but it still seemed it was the right thing to do today," said Ed Kent, of Saugus, also a friend of McIntyre's.

Once the walkers returned to their starting point, the walk-a-thon's ambassador, Brandon Martinez, thanked the crowd for walking to fund children's cancer research.

"You guys are the heroes for kids with cancer. You're the ones donating towards this cause," Brandon said. "I just want to say thank you guys."

Brandon, 14, was diagnosed with acute lymphoma leukemia at age 9 and is currently in his second round of chemotherapy at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. He was among four other pediatric cancer patients recognized and cheered for by the crowd of cancer warriors.

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