As the national director of “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer,” Shaer oversees what’s become one of the American Cancer Society’s largest annual fund raisers.
What began with 4,000 walkers in Boston and New Hampshire in 1993, last year boasted 700,000 walkers who raised $60 million. Today 200 walks take place across the nation, mostly in October.
The walks, says Shaer, demonstrate just what a powerful force women can be when they join together to promote a cause. She’s participated in the fundraisers in cities such as San Francisco, Portland, Cleveland, New York and Boston.
Shaer believes there are a variety of reasons the walks have become such a phenomenon.
“They’re an easy way for people to get together with family, friends and colleagues, they aren’t a big time commitment and most people can handle it --even kids or those in wheelchairs,” she says. “The walks also promote physical activity --instead of sitting at a big meal to raise money, participants are helping to fight the disease by getting physically active.”
The breast cancer research funded by the walks have led to the discovery of important drugs such as Herceptin and Tamoxifin. The Strides walk is also an important educational event, says Shaer, reminding women about steps they can take for early detection.
Though the walk revolves around a dreaded disease, Shaer says the spirit of a Strides walk is anything but depressing.
“Even if you are memorializing someone, it’s empowering because there is a great sense of camaraderie. You know so many people around you are experiencing the same thing.”