Raylene Gaines of Charlene Neal PureStyle organizes the team each year for the cancer walk.
When Raylene Gaines first started organizing a team to participate in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, she was trying to support a friend.
Now 12 years later, her project has become even more personal.
Gaines, an office manager for Charlene Neal PureStyle in Lakewood Ranch, currently is putting together her Building Hope with Pink Pride team for the Oct. 19 event at Nathan Benderson Park.
With support from Neal Communities, she is hoping to smash the $4,945 her team raised in 2017 for the American Cancer Society. So far this year, the team has raised $2,774. She wants more walkers to join her.
Unfortunately, she has had a lot of incentive to keep the program rolling.
She first started organizing a team when her Sarasota hairdresser, Carol Skol, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Gaines went to work and even offered prizes and incentives for those who would join her team.
Skol, meanwhile, seemed to beat the disease when she was declared cancer free. It returned, though, and Skol lost her battle with the disease.
Even so, Gaines decided to continue her efforts to support the American Cancer Society event.
"It was such an inspirational event," Gaines said. "Everyone was rallying for the same cause. And all the money from this event stays within the local community."
Then six years ago, Gaines' mother, Sarasota's Margaret Bovinett, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"It's kind of a family thing now," she said. "It is more personal to me."
Gaines' son, Shane Gaines, got involved with the walk, posting on social media that he would wear a pink tutu or a pink bra, among other items, if people would donate a certain amount to the cause. Shane Gaines, now 20, has been one of the highlights of the event to see what he will be wearing.
"When I heard he would do that (wear pink items), it made he very proud," Bovinett said of her grandson.
With no cancer present in her system, Bovinett said she feels blessed not only to survive, but to have benefitted by cancer research.
"There are so many new things coming out," Bovinett said. "It makes a big difference."
Bovinett said she benefitted by new testing methods that determined she could fight her disease through chemotherapy with no radiation. A few years back, she was told she would have needed both.
That's why she believes events such as Making Strides are so important as they feed funds into cancer research while raising awareness.
"There are so many women out there with breast cancer," Bovinett said. "When you first hear it is cancer, you just don't think you could have it. I got scared a couple of times."
While she hadn't participated on her daughter's team before her diagnosis, she did afterward.
"You see how important is it, especially when it hits home," Bovinett said.
The disease has hit home at Neal Communities for the past two years as Suzanne Carlin (Charlene Neal's sister) and executive assistant Lynn Albert both died of the disease. Pat Neal has offered a bonus, along with the $2,500 he donates in the team's name each year, to Building Hope with Pink Pride if the team can get more than 30 walkers. Gaines has attracted about 30 walkers each year.
"You don't have to raise money, just show up," Gaines said of joining the Building Hope with Pink Pride team. "This is more about raising awareness. But once you go through it, you will want to get involved."