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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 cancer. 

Sista Strut 2017

(From left) Pamela Jackson, Beth-Anne Yakubu, Nanette Parris, Jamie Motley, Ph.D., and Patricia McQueen were among SLU's Fairy God Walkers during this year's Sista Strut breast cancer awareness walk on Saturday, Oct. 7. Photo by Jamie Motley, Ph.D.

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,” she said.

“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.

Jamie Motley at the 2017 Sista Strut

SLU staff member Jamie Motley, Ph.D., (center) was one of SLU's 118 walkers at this year's Sista Strut. Photo by Jamie Motley, Ph.D.

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.