SLU Struts Its Stuff to Support Breast Cancer Awareness
While Cinderella’s fairy godmother helped her get a ball, Saint Louis University’s
“fairy god walkers” had a different mission in mind as they paired pink tiaras with
SLU blue – fostering awareness and support for women of color who are battling breast
Earlier this month, more than 100 walkers from Saint Louis University marched along
the St. Louis Riverfront as part of the 2017 Sista Strut on Saturday, Oct. 7. The
annual event raises awareness about how issues of breast cancer affect women of color
and provides resources to a traditionally underserved part of the St. Louis community.
Research has shown that African American women are more likely to develop breast cancer at
a younger age and to die from the disease than Caucasian women of the same age. Sista
Strut recognizes the strength of survivors, their family, and friends, heightens awareness,
promotes early detection and the search for a cure.
The SLU team totaled 118 walkers, the event’s largest group. The Fairy God Walkers
raised over $2,900 for local nonprofits that help women fighting breast cancer, support
survivors and are active in breast cancer research. SLU turned out the largest team at the walk last year as well.
“Taking part in the walk allowed me to be the voice for others and to stand for what
I believed in,” Regina Walton, executive assistant in the Officer of Diversity and
Community Engagement, explained. Walton was one of the SLU team’s organizers. “More
importantly, fulfilling my purpose here on earth and living out my mission was the
only way to give back.”
Two of Walton’s aunts have recently survived breast cancer. While thankful for their
recoveries, Walton said she prayed to ask God to bless those in pain and for a cure
to be found.
“I began to think about how blessed I was and how I could become a blessing to others,”
“Over the years, I had a number of conversations with African American women who were
battling this disease, many who had no resources and would become so overwhelmed with
finances. I shared many hugs and tears and personally saw the fight they endured. Knowing
this, I had to put my words into action and show my support. I realized that in our
community, there is much work to be done. However, the change begins with us and cancer
has no color. ”
Walton said her work at SLU also pushed her to make a difference, inspired by the
Jesuit mission she sees her fellow staff members, University faculty and SLU students
live out each day.
“I saw a student that had a t-shirt that read, ‘You need people to make a dream a
reality.’ I began to reflect on that sometimes in life we have to realize, it’s not
about us, but to serve others by living out the mission of pursuing the truth for
the ‘greater glory of God,’” Walton said. “I felt it was necessary to become a woman
for others, and never to look back.”
Jonathan Smith, Ph.D., vice president for diversity and community engagement, and
Walton organized SLU's team. Michell Nickerson, program coordinator for St. Louis
University Cancer Center Operations, served as the co-captain. William Ferguson, M.D.,
interim Cancer Center director, and Amy Winker, operations manager of the Cancer Center
also assisted in organizing this year’s walk. The University supported the team by
covering some registrations costs.
“With a walk and a jog, a sense of community, a few laughs and selfies, and a real
commitment to making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, approximately
118 proud members of the SLU community lived SLU's mission of service and humanity
for God's greater glory,” Laverne Robinson, program director for stewardship, recalled.
This year’s strut was sponsored by The Breakfast Club, The Siteman Cancer Center at
Barnes Jewish Hospital, The Mercy Breast Center, Gateway to Hope and SSM Breast Care
and the Rosetta Boyce Kyles Women’s Pavilion at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital. To
learn more about the walk, visit the Sista Strut.