MASON COUNTY — Sisters sometime have a special bond, and that holds true for Shayla Blackshire and Michelle Hart.
The two are both wives, mothers, elementary school teachers, and passionate about promoting cancer awareness. That is why, for the second year, they will be walking 30 miles in the “It’s The Journey” two-day walk for breast cancer in Atlanta, Ga.
The event takes place Oct. 5 and 6, and is a fundraising endurance walk that takes participants through 30 miles of Atlanta, according to the walk website. Last year, nearly 1,000 walkers took part, raising over $1,070,000.
Blackshire and Hart said they chose the Georgia walk because 100 percent of the money raised goes to help patients, with nothing going to CEO’s or administrators. Also, the walk provides minimal time away from family and work, Blackshire added.
All the funds raised stay in Georgia, and provide for mammograms, clinical breast exams, genetic counseling and testing, biopsies, and more for uninsured or under-insured women, according to the website. Blackshire said until West Virginia begins a similar event, she and Hart will take their two-person team, the “West Virginia Mountain Ta-Tas” to Georgia.
Blackshire said the sisters support cancer awareness and research any way they can, and do not limit their efforts to breast cancer alone. She stated they have lost a grandmother, uncle, and good friend, all to cancer.
“When someone goes through cancer, it is not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually,” said Blackshire. “It’s going to touch all our families somehow, and this is our way of honor and remembrance.”
Hart said the walk takes the sisters out of their comfort zone after being use to walking their same pattern in the rural area of Letart. Walkers trek through downtown Atlanta, most of the time having to stop for multiple lanes of traffic until the signal tells them it is safe to cross the street.
The women walk 20 of the 30 miles on the first day of the event. Along the way, they will walk through the College Football Hall of Fame, and pass by Freedom Park, the Georgia Aquarium, and Centennial Park, as well as other famous sites. Every two miles or so, they said there are “breast stops” that provide drinks, and “breast patrols” on both bikes and motorcycles that constantly monitor their health.
Blackshire and Hart had to raise $1,200 each to participate. The money comes from various fundraisers they host throughout the year. They pay for their own walking shoes, food, and first night’s lodging, since they will fly to Atlanta on Oct. 4.
The women said some of their most encouraging moments during last year’s walk came from the texts they received from family and friends back home. Blackshire said just at a point when they weren’t sure they could keep going, a text or photo of support would come through to motivate them.
The women also mentioned the emotional “Survivor Victory Lap,” when the last half mile of the walk is led by those who have personally fought breast cancer. Hart said the two never realized that some of those walking next to them were 10- or 15-year survivors, or someone newly diagnosed.
Blackshire and Hart said they are always on the lookout for others to join their team. Until then, they will continue as a duo from the Mountain State.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.