All in the family: The history of Come Walk With Me
Believe it or not, Pierce County’s largest breast cancer walk was inspired by a woman named Pinky.
In 1986, Pinky VanDyk was diagnosed with breast cancer. Pinky and her family turned her diagnosis into a way to help others. Pinky’s daughters came along to her treatments, bringing blankets and visiting patients who were alone.
The family’s mission was simple: support as many people as possible going through breast cancer.
“We didn’t want anyone to be alone,” Pinky’s daughter Ida VanDyk McLeary explains.
In 2007, Pinky’s other daughter, Laura Steinthal, was also diagnosed with breast cancer. To support her sister during treatment, Ida and her family signed up for a cancer walk in Sumner.
“The Downtown Sumner Association was hosting a cancer walk, so my sisters and I signed up,” Ida says. “Only about 50 people ended up walking, so I decided that we needed to do something about that. I walked into one of the Association’s meetings and told them that my family had a passion for breast cancer patients. They responded with, ‘Okay, you’re the new chairman.’”
At their first walk, Ida and her family increased participation from 50 to 150 people. They helped direct the funds raised to MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital breast health programs and the first check they delivered was $8,000.
“The walk has always been very grassroots,” she says. “We would get nieces and nephews, sisters and brothers together. The night before the walk, we would hammer handmade signs along the streets of Sumner. Then we would all show up at 5am and set up tents.”
She laughs and reminisces about the walks, like the time they attempted to brew coffee and blew out the power for the entire Old Cannery parking lot. (The Old Cannery has since rewired the entire venue just for Come Walk With Me.)
With the support of Ida, the rest of the VanDyks, the Downtown Association, the Old Cannery, the entire Sumner community, Come Walk With Me continues to blossom. Today it is the largest breast cancer walk in Pierce County.
“We went from raising less than $8,000 to $80,000, from 50 participants to 800 — and then we joined forces with MultiCare,” Ida says. “Now we are raising at least $100,000 each year with more than 1,000 walkers (and growing). With MultiCare involved, the number of people we reach is unbelievable.”
The VanDyks remain pillars of Come Walk With Me — showing up in large numbers every year to walk for their team ,“All in the Family.”
One of the things that remains special about the event is its homegrown feel.
“Breast cancer is something that connects a lot of people. We continue to build Come Walk With Me because we want to make it personal. It is a special, community-oriented event with local people helping local people. We believe that people want to help, they just don’t know how, and I am here to tell them,” Ida laughs.
From bedazzled bras, pink pancakes, boas and tutus, Ida and her family could not be more proud of the event they helped create.
Pinky and Laura lost their battles with cancer, but Ida and her family focus on staying positive.
“Something good has come out of our family’s diagnosis and losses — a passion for this cause.”
Join the VanDyks and thousands of others as we paint the streets of Sumner pink on October 7.
About The Author
Kortney Scroger is a communication specialist for the Foundations of MultiCare. She writes stories that connect readers to the impact of giving. You can reach her at [email protected].More stories by this author