UPDATE: Wendy Walk held two walks to raise awareness of sarcoma cancer and money for sarcoma cancer research on Sunday, Sept. 18. The walks were held in Santa Monica, California, and Miami, Florida. ACGT has pictures from those walks at the end of this article.
More than a decade ago, Wendy Walk started as a way to raise awareness and research funding for sarcoma. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the event never stalled, continuing in virtual and small in-person settings.
Now, in 2022, the non-profit cancer fundraiser is ready to return to its pre-COVID fully in-person capacity.
The 13th-annual Wendy Walk will be held Sunday, Sept. 18 at 10 a.m. (pacific time) in Santa Monica, California. The annual event raises money to benefit Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT). One of ACGT’s Research Fellows, Stephen Gottschalk, MD, is funded in part by the donation ACGT receives from Wendy Walk. Dr. Gottschalk is focusing on sarcoma in his pivotal research at St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Options for Wendy Walk participation
Wendy Walk has raised more than $500,000 to benefit Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy. This money helps ACGT’s mission of funding cell and gene therapy research with the hope of finding a cure for tough-to-treat cancers like sarcoma.
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Wendy Walk was held virtually in 2020. A small in-person event with a limited number of people was held in 2021, with others participating virtually. Last year’s event raised $250,000 towards sarcoma research.
This year is a return to an in-person setting. Wendy Walk in Santa Monica, Calif., begins at 2440 Barnard Way.
Registration is underway on the event website. There is also a Wendy Walk on Sept. 18 in Miami, Fla. You can also donate to make an impact in the lives of people – patients and families – affected by sarcoma cancer.
Virtual participation is still an option, especially for walkers who don’t live near one of the two locations.
The event on the Santa Monica beach is approximately 1 mile in distance, but walkers can decide what’s comfortable for them.
History of Wendy Walk
The annual Walk was inspired by the sarcoma cancer battle of Wendy Landes, the mother of event organizers Ali, Matt and Jackie Landes. Ali Landes is a member of ACGT’s Board of Directors.
Wendy Landes was diagnosed with sarcoma in 2008. Sarcoma is a group of cancers that starts in the bones and soft tissues. These soft tissues connect and support other body structures. Wendy’s type of sarcoma was liposarcoma, which is a cancer of fatty tissue.
Wendy’s three-year battle with sarcoma inspired her friends and family to take action. They felt the number of therapies for sarcoma and awareness of this cancer was lacking. So, in 2010, the Landes family started the Wendy Walk fundraising event. Wendy’s children decided to use a walk fundraiser due to the words of their mother.
“Our mom was very focused on staying as physically healthy as she could, and movement was so important to her,” Ali Landes said to Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy. “She used to say that if she kept moving, the cancer couldn’t catch her. She would draw strength and comfort through walking with her friends and she loved to walk on the beach – it healed her soul. So, the idea of doing something with movement on the beach just made sense.”
There have been 39 walks with more than 10,000 walkers since the event began in 2010. The goal was simple: Raise awareness of sarcoma and help advance research to find a cure.
Wendy participated in the first three years of Wendy Walks before she passed away in 2013. Her involvement in the non-profit organization and annual event “became more and more of a reason for her to keep living,” Ali said.
“She became incredibly passionate about raising research funds, and would even come with me to fundraise. She would be up on stage telling the audience that people like her needed a change.” — Ali Landes, Wendy Walk organizer and ACGT Board of Directors member
Wendy’s children have honored her battle by continuing Wendy Walk with friends, family and others hoping to help raise money for crucial life-saving research.
“I’m just excited that we can have a hopeful and joyous day with the purpose of helping people, spreading love and encouragement, and raising funds to support people suffering from sarcoma,” Ali said of this year’s event.
‘A community fostered out of love’
Lily Gordon, Wendy Walk’s Program Director, joined the team at first simply to help with social media marketing. She and Ali knew one another from high school, and Ali reached out for part-time help.
However, Lily’s role quickly increased as she felt inspired by the love, care and support from the Landes family and others associated with Wendy Walk.
“I think of the family as my family now. Being able to witness what they’ve done in honor of their mother is so powerful and they’ve created an amazing community of people who are there to support and open their homes for treatment. You can really tell it’s a community fostered out of love.” — Lily Gordon, Wendy Walk Program Director
That community was an important source of support in 2020, when Lily’s father passed away from cancer (not sarcoma).
“So many people were there for me,” she said. “It feels like they kind of paved the way so that when I had to say goodbye to a parent, they guided me through it. I didn’t have to do it alone.”
Lily’s story is an example of the special bond within the Wendy Walk community, from the Landes family to the staff members organizing the Walk to the participants who walk every year and donate toward sarcoma research. This story – and many others like it – is a reason why Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy is proud to be a beneficiary of Wendy Walk.
“I feel like Wendy Walk has become synonymous with someone who’s fighting cancer in an active and positive way, and I think that’s something my mom would be proud of — that and the fact that we’ve been able to really help people,” Ali said. “I think one of the most emotional and impactful moments was the first time a survivor we didn’t know found us and came to the Wendy Walk.”
Below are pictures from the 2022 Wendy Walk walks, which were held in Santa Monica, California, and Miami, Florida.