The Village Walk for Cancer Research started in 2002 as the Midge Bates Walk. When Midge was diagnosed with breast cancer, several of her friends (Shirley Engquist, Jan Farnsworth and Kate Williamson) decided to have a walk in her honor to help raise her spirits and to raise awareness for breast cancer research at the Arkansas Research Center (now the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute).
In 2003, with Midge still battling cancer, her friends had a second walk. In 2004, Midge lost her battle with cancer and that year the walk was renamed to the Village Walk for Cancer Research. In 2005, there weren’t enough people to organize the walk so Claire MacNeill (who just lost her daughter to breast cancer) decided to get involved. That year Claire received help from her Trails Committee and Altrusa and put on a “Spirit Walk”. Walkers used six (6) trails and were given preaddressed and stamped envelopes for donations and raised an estimated $2,000.
Each year we dedicate and honor a person who is a cancer survivor and honor the memory of a person who lost their life to cancer. Claire continued to chair the WFCR until 2011.
Melanie Pederson, who is a breast cancer survivor, joined the planning team in 2011 and became Chair in 2012, a position in which she still serves. The number of walkers and sponsors has grown from less than 100 to over 600. As soon as the Balboa Trail was completed, the WFCR moved from the Cortez Pavilion to the Balboa Pavilion to accommodate all of the people from the Village and surrounding communities that show up and walk.
We have a Silent Auction and bake sale and in 2018, received generous donations from people that participated in our document shredding event through Arkansas Records Management. We are already thinking about different ways we can involve the community and improve the walk for 2019.
Philosophy on Community Service
The Village Walk for Cancer Research (WFCR) started as a small group of women walking to honor a friend with cancer. It has grown into a grassroots volunteer initiative of community members who have a passion to raise money for cancer research.
The WFCR is one of the largest fund raising events for cancer research in the Village and has raised over $505,000 dollars for cancer research since 2005. This money is given to the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Institute (WPRCI) at the UAMS and is designated for cancer research initiatives such as the Seeds of Science Program. Each year the number of walkers and sponsors has exceeded our goal as the community shows their support for this worthy cause.
Community Involvement and Service above Self
The Village Walk for Cancer Research Planning team consists of members that have a desire to serve and give of their time and energy to better serve the community. This event brings the community together to honor and remember family members, friends and neighbors who are dealing with or who have lost their lives to this insidious disease.
The Hot Springs Village Property Owners Association Board of Directors recognizes and issues a proclamation each year proclaiming the walk date as “The Village Walk for Cancer Research Day.”
Many of the organizations and churches in the community form groups that participate in the walk each year. The WGA Nine Holer's golf league continues to support the walk with sponsorship and walkers. Students from Jessieville and Fountain Lake school districts and ASMSA (Arkansas School of Mathematics, Sciences and Arts) raise money and participate in the walk. For this, the students receive a certificate of appreciation for their community service.
Each year, in partnership with UAMS, we host “The Doctor is in the Village” event where the community can hear the latest updates in cancer research and meet doctors and researchers from UAMS.
The importance of this event cannot be underscored. A resident who attended one such event was recognized by a physician to have a suspicious growth that was diagnosed as cancer and was treated with a positive outcome. Without events like this, his situation could have turned out differently. Other residents have participated in clinical trials at UAMS that have led to new types of targeted therapies that are now being used to treat specific types of cancer. Several articles about the Walk and survivor stories have appeared in the Village Voice, Sentinel Record and TriLakes Section of the Democratic Gazette.
The Village Walk for Cancer Research recently established an endowment with the Hot Springs Village Community Foundation. The endowment funds are managed by a sophisticated group of financial advisors associated with the Arkansas Community Foundation. This endowment will earn income each year and 4% of that income will become available for use by the VWCR to further the goal of cancer research and other related projects in our community. An endowment, unlike most savings accounts, will exist in perpetuity as will the earnings from it.