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Walton employees walk to benefit Georgia’s breast health programs.

This is the 12th year Walton Gas is sponsoring the event that raises money for Georgia breast health programs. Employees pictured at the 2018 walk are, from left, Marcy Freeman, Tassie Kirven, Courtney Wray and Kathy Ivie.

Don’t let all the pink-washed shirts and decorations fool you; there’s some real grit and grunge that goes into grinding out the Georgia 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer. The employee team representing Walton Gas and Walton EMC has the sore feet and stinky shoes to prove it. They are veterans of the annual fundraising endurance walk that takes participants through 30 miles of Atlanta over the course of two days.

The average person takes about 2,250 steps to walk a mile. In the 12 consecutive years she and fellow employees have participated in the event, Monica Gaither has taken every step — more than 800,000 of them — in support of Georgia’s breast cancer patients.

Monica, a customer care supervisor, and co-worker Kathy Ivie, the company’s youth and community specialist, have participated in the walk every year Walton Gas has sponsored the fundraising event. Joined by eight other Walton employees, they completed this year’s walk on Oct. 2 and 3.

Monica Gaither, second from left in front, has walked the full 30 miles each of the 12 years Walton Gas has sponsored the Georgia 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer. She walks in memory of her mother who died from the disease. Pictured with her are members of the 2019 team representing Walton Gas/Walton EMC. Front row, from left, are: Tammy Johnson, Gaither, Liz Wright, Debra Clay and Kathy Ivie. Back Row: Alex Booker, Tassie Kirven, Heidi Neal, Marcy Freeman, Courtney Wray and Whitney Grogg.

Some, like Monica, take those important steps in memory of loved ones whose lives were ended by breast cancer. Monica lost her mother to the disease.

All Walton team members walk the miles because breast cancer has affected them in some way. “It touches everyone’s life at some point, whether it’s themselves, family or friends,” Kathy said. Their participation also honors fellow employees who are breast cancer survivors.

“The biggest thing that motivates us is keeping in mind how much our loved ones suffer and the pain they endure during the healing, the chemo and radiation,” Kathy said. “We feel that if they can take that, then 30 miles is nothing compared to their pain.”

Taking those steps isn’t always easy, though. The Walton team has trudged on through extreme heat, unseasonable cold, stiff winds and driving rain to cover the 20 miles on Saturday and the final 10 on Sunday.

“Each year we just weather whatever comes our way,” Kathy said. She recalled one year when rain flooded portions of the walk course. “There was no way around it, so we had to walk in water that came up over our ankles, then finish in soaking wet shoes.” 

The 30-mile course takes walkers around downtown Atlanta and into surrounding residential neighborhoods.

The walk route, which varies annually, runs throughout downtown Atlanta, passing landmarks like the gold-domed state capitol building and the Georgia Aquarium. It has wound through the Georgia Tech campus and the College Football Hall of Fame as well as along portions of the BeltLine. Segments that run through residential neighborhoods are a favorite with walkers.

“The families come out and cheer us on, and even give out water,” Kathy said.

This year, the Walton team raised $30,000, bringing their 12-year total to more than $400,000. Proceeds from the annual Walton EMC Sporting Clay Shoot and personal donations support the team’s fundraising efforts.

Kathy, who sets a personal goal of collecting $10,000 in donations each year, likes supporting the Georgia 2-Day Walk because the money specifically benefits breast cancer prevention and patient care programs within the state.

“The thing that makes this one special is that it is local, and my heart believes in supporting my local community,” she said.

Proceeds from the walk fund grants to agencies that serve over 100 counties in the state. To date, funds raised by walk teams have paid for 431 grants totaling $16.5 million to support breast health programs throughout Georgia.

These initiatives provide mammograms, clinical breast exams, genetic counseling and testing, biopsies, patient support services and education. Many grants have a specific focus on helping uninsured and under-insured women for whom these types of breast health measures are often not available.

Even when the going gets tough, Monica and Kathy know that every mile they walk with their Walton Gas/Walton EMC teammates provides more support for local breast health programs. During the 2021 walk, the team of 10 combined to walk an impressive 300 miles — about 675,000 steps toward caring for their Georgia neighbors.

BY THE NUMBERS

12

Years Walton Gas has sponsored

30

Miles in 2-Day Walk course

100

Counties served by grants funded by walk donations

1,000

Approximate number of walkers participating annually

$400,000

Raised by Walton Gas/Walton EMC employees

675,000

Total steps for Walton team to complete 30-mile course

$16,500,000

Money raised to support breast health programs