For Mary Kathryn Nugent, December 2007 holds tragic memories.
The specific day, she says, is one she doesn’t like to talk about.
That day in December, her home and business were engulfed in flames. Her lung collapsed in the aftermath of the fire, and during her lung treatment, doctors found stage 4 breast cancer.
But that diagnosis led Nugent, 73, to the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K, smiling as she completed the walk in her electric wheelchair. The walk, held in downtown Gainesville on Saturday, helped raise money for breast cancer research and emphasized the need for more donations and programs.
Jessica Clayton, the community manager of the event, said 185 teams and more than 3,400 walkers had raised and donated about $120,000 to the cause prior to the event. As of press time, the total amount raised has not been updated.
For Clayton, the work is worth honoring the survivors. She hopes one day, with all of the funds raised, they will be step closer to finding a cure for breast cancer.
"They are the reason why we do this," she said. "They are the reason why we continue to fight."
Nugent was one out of about 100 breast cancer survivors celebrated at the walk with free T-shirts, breakfast and goody bags.
Supporters dressed in pink tutus proudly displayed pink ribbons on their bras, hats and shirts. They spray-painted their hair pink at a booth and stuck pink ribbon tattoos on their faces.
The walk has been in the planning stages since February. Clayton recruited volunteers who helped gather sponsorships, teams and ideas to advocate the event.
After working with the breast cancer committee for three years, Ishan Panchal said he does it to give back to his community.
The 19-year-old UF psychology sophomore lost his grandmother to breast cancer in February.
"She was one of the strongest women I will ever know," he said. "She had the willpower that I don’t think I will see in anyone ever again."
As Nugent watched tutus shake to the rhythm of the Electric Slide, she said she was proud.
When Nugent looks at students setting up the walk and volunteering, she said she feels there is hope. As she rolled through a sea of pink in her electric wheelchair, Nugent said she sees future researchers, doctors and nurses.
She said she sees a future.
"My life is just beginning," she said. "I’m a survivor for a reason."
Honey, a 6-year-old golden retriever lab mix, wags her tail as owner Kendall Nettles gets ready to walk the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k on Oct. 24, 2015. The 22-year-old Santa Fe early childhood education senior said it was important to support those with breast cancer and those who had lost their lives.