The 8th Annual San Quentin’s CARES two-day Avon’s Walk for Breast Cancer focuses on honoring loved ones and healing.
The prisoners, some who earn as little as 18 cents per hour, contributed $1,200 by making $5 donations. Staff and volunteers donated $800.
Guest Peter Bailey, who came with his wife and son, concluded, “I appreciated coming in and being a part of this. How many people on the outside would sacrifice a week’s wages just to walk around a yard? These guys can show others that nobility.”
The 39-mile walk took place on the Lower Yard. The participants walked 26 miles the first day and 13 miles the next.
“It’s not just about raising money but to give the men a chance to honor the women in their lives, who have suffered from the disease,” said Chris Bailey, volunteer and CARE board member. “What people on the outside would pay for a latté is like a week’s worth of pay for these men, and that shows their dedication to this cause.”
Kim Bailey, volunteer and CARE board member, added “I’m always in awe when I see everybody coming together with the same thoughts and goals. When you start to think about other than yourself, you become successful, and these guys are passionate about giving their time and money.”
K. Bailey’s sister and mother both passed from cancer. She brought her mother in for last year’s walk.
“She really appreciated all the men who walk and kept her company that day,” said Bailey. “She talked about that day until her death.”
To open the ceremony the participants, guests and volunteers walked around the yard holding a long pink ribbon.
“This connects the men to the bigger movement,” said Shannon Gordhamer, a volunteer walking for her mother. “It connects them back to their humanity. Most of them will be getting out one day, and this gives them the opportunity to heal from their traumas and to grow.”
Gordhamer planned to bring her mother for this event, but lost her just before. She stated she was here in spirit.
Inmates Tommy Wickerd and Mike Moore teamed up to walk together. Both displayed pictures of their mothers. Wickerd’s mother is a cancer survivor, while Moore’s mother, Sondra, has succumbed to the disease.
“This is my first walk,” said Wickerd. “I’m fortunate to still have my Ma. It was painful not being there for her, due to my bad choices. This allows me to show support. I love you Ma, one to go.”
Moore added, “This is a healing; I go through our memories, our funny times and her wise words like you’re swinging at the jail house doors. This is not a political thing; it’s a people thing. We all have suffered loss, and we all can heal.”
Chris Sculls was another prisoner who spoke emotionally about his mother dying from stomach cancer.
“I just feel guilty not being there for her, and I use it for motivation to support these causes.”
Michael Woods and John Robb are two survivors who suffered multiple cancers. Woods was diagnosed with colon and lung cancer and has been in remission for three years. Robb had cancer in his throat, tongue and head.
“My whole family had died from cancer,” said Robb. “It wasn’t a matter how but when I would get it. I’m happy to be alive.”
Woods stated, “To win you have to stay in front of it and catch it early to give yourself a chance of living.”
Berklee Donavan read a letter to the crowd from a survivor with six points of care: 1) listen to your body 2) check your diet 3) exercise 4) no pity parties 5) figure out what you want do and do it 6) share your knowledge and resources.
Volunteer Esmeralda Garcia helped manage the tables where the walkers drew or wrote inspirational words on posters to be auctioned off to further raise funds.
“This is the best place to exchange ideas,” said Garcia. “We come to teach and to learn, and that helps strengthen community life.”
The event on Aug. 6 and 7 saw hundreds of men representing fallen loved ones. Nathaniel Sparks walked for his aunt Rita Sparks, who he said never complained throughout her illness.
Darnell “Moe” Washington walked for his aunt Me Me and Uncle Michael for the third year.
“I wanted to contribute and show solidity ,” said Washington. “Cancer doesn’t discriminate from outside people to people in here.”
Even Community Partnership Manager Steve Emrick and Associate Warden S. Albritton came out to honor their family members who passed from the disease.
“We have enough space to provide this service,” said Albritton. “We as the administration are doing our part.”
Emrick added, “We are working on getting other groups involved to contribute to the cure and prevention of this disease and to make this a bigger event.”
Even though there were fewer participants at the annual event, Gordhamer said there were fewer participants on the outside, too.
Gordhamer and Emrick said SQ CARES is looking for ways to increase participation inside the prison.
To make a donation go to: http://info.avonfoundation.org/goto/SQCARES7