It all began back in 1993. Twenty-five years ago, 29 people gathered to walk in unison to bring awareness and much-needed fundraising to the fight against breast cancer.
It was the first year of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, an initiative brought forth by the American Cancer Society. Concord was one of two walks – the other in Boston – and it brought in a grand total of $3,000.
The very next year, that total grew to $8,000, then $12,000 the following year before hitting $20,000 for the first time in 1996.
By 1999, the Concord walk surpassed the six figure mark for the first time in an individual year, raising $109,000. The yearly totals continued to grow all the way through 2008.
In 2003, the walk catapulted to $267,000, followed by a jump to $329,500 the next year.
By 2007, the amount raised in an individual year had gone over the half million dollar mark, reaching $506,311.
Over the last decade, the numbers have gone up and down from year to year, which makes sense when you’re talking about that kind of money coming in.
In 2012, Concord set a record by bringing in $613,763 for the fight against breast cancer. Just take a second to let that sink in. The state capital in the seventh smallest state in the country generated more than $600,000 with the hope of finding a cure.
“It says a lot about the community that it can sustain this kind of event,” said Kimberly Laro, a former committee member.
Last year, nearly 5,000 people took part in the walk and fundraising effort to add $476,510 to the total.
So in the matter of 25 years, the Concord walk has grown by roughly 172 times in participation and way more than that in dollars raised. Over the last two and a half decades, Concord has brought in more than $7.4 million.
“It gives you chills. It’s so inspirational,” said Lynn Keach, who runs the team registration tent and has for many years. She also is the one to total up all the fundraising.
Concord is now one of more than 250 walks that take place nationwide annually and one of nine in New Hampshire during the month of October.
And when it comes to the data based on dollars raised per capita, Concord stands alone.
The national average is 14 cents. It rises to 40 cents in New England and 87 cents in New Hampshire. But in Concord that rate skyrockets to $3.14 per capita.
In the 25 years since Concord and Boston started the trend of hosting walks, more than 13 million walkers have taken part, raising $810 million.
We can’t wait to see what kind of totals come out of this Sunday’s event.
And the success of the Concord event can be attributed to a lot of people who got behind it along the way.
Keach points to the diagnosis of her good friend Tricia Reid as the moment she got involved with Reid’s team, the Cure Crusaders.
“I don’t think Making Strides in Concord would be what it is if not for Tricia Reid,” Keach said.
There have been people like Kathi Russ, this year’s volunteer chair, who saw what the event was way back when and what it could be in the future.
“I’m not going to lie, but it was all Kathi,” Keach said. “She does not take no from anybody and she really pushed for this. It’s her passion.”
The only time Keach walked was the last year her friend was alive. Outside of that year, she volunteers on event day as the first person you see in the registration tent.
“People come in and tell you their stories and there’s so much passion,” Keach said. “This is a really, really inspirational week.”
Laro has spent 17 years as part of Sarah’s Soldiers, spent 10 years on the planning committee, including the role of volunteer chair in 2011-12, but has taken a step back and now just walks with the team created for her friend who passed away at the age of 26.
“When I first became involved, it had some momentum,” Laro said.
So it kind of goes without saying that this event is a pretty big deal. The money is being brought in and the awareness is being spread – the final piece of the puzzle is to find a cure.
One day, hopefully, this event can just be a celebration of lives saved and a job well done.