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Hundreds turn out for Miami Country Day’s Walk For Cancer


Special to The Miami Herald
Cancer survivor Debi Beasley has never been a fan of tattoos.

But her opinion of body art changed last year when her daughter, Mary Beasley got a pink ribbon on her left wrist in honor of her mother’s battle with breast cancer.

“It was an awesome thing,” Beasley said.

With no trace of cancer in her family, Beasley was surprised to find out she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41. Last year, Beasley was re-diagnosed with breast cancer again on the same breast at age 50.

“I just broke down and cried when I heard the news,” said Mary Beasley, who at the time was attending Alabama University.

But the two Beasley women shared a moment of triumph, celebrating Debi Beasley’s second victory against breast cancer — walking along with other cancer survivors and their friends and family at the 12th annual Miami Country Day School Walk for Cancer on Oct. 24.

Despite a downpour, hundreds walked 3.1 miles through Miami Shores with their umbrellas and pink ponchos, starting at the school at 601 NE 107th St.

“It’s a good feeling to know that people that don’t have it in their lives care,” said a teary-eyed Debi Beasley, who is president of Miami Country Day’s parent association.

“When you do have it, it’s really scary.”

The student-organized event helped raise funds for the Heidi Hewes Chapter of the Woman’s Cancer Association of the University of Miami’s Sylvester Center.

In addition to the walk, students and parents donated hair for the nonprofit Locks of Love, which provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children who have suffered hair loss due to illness.

Charly Bates, who heads the Miami Country Day’s Comprehensive Outdoor Education Program, grew his hair for the past five years. He cut 10 inches of it all in the name of his wife, Margaret Bates, who was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago.

The former boxer said he wanted to beat cancer with a “knockout.”

“I didn’t want to give in to the normalcy of life,” said Charly Bates, who cooked breakfast for walkers. “My approach of the cancer thing is to fight with it. My hair cutting is a celebration.”

Margaret Bates enjoyed her husband’s new look.

“I am proud of him for doing it,” she said. “It’s part of his image, since he is into the outdoors program.”

The event marked the third time Morgan Furlong, a Miami Country Day senior and cheerleader, cut her hair for the cause — donating 11 inches of her brown locks.

“It’s just hair to me, but the world to them,” said Morgan, 17, who has two aunts who survived breast cancer.

Eight people donated their hair to Locks of Love, receiving a cap and a gift certificate to a nearby hair salon in return.

To help raise funds, students collected money in school and hosted bake sales throughout the month. Supplies such as umbrellas, pencils, and stress balls were also sold. After the walk, participants enjoyed the school’s homecoming football game and a barbecue.

For seventh grader Sebastian Aiza, who raised $100 knocking on people’s doors selling stress balls, the event had personal meaning.

“My friend’s mom has cancer and I come every year to help raise money,” said Sebastian, who went around in the rain finding walkers willing to have him spray paint their hair pink.

Director of special events Marilyn Greenfield said the event was a success. The school has raised $22,000 so far.

“This walk and everything about it is such a triumph,” said Greenfield, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. “It is a true labor of love.”

To donate to the Miami Country Day School Walk for Cancer fund, mail checks to: Miami Country Day School Attn: Marilyn Greenfield, 601 NE 107 Street, Miami, FL 33161.

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