When Joe Tetro first walked to raise money to fight pancreatic cancer, it was in July 2004. His wife, Ginny, a hairdresser, was 41 and in the last month of her life battling the disease.
Sunday, on an October morning 11 years later, he and about 20 friends and relatives donned purple shirts again to honor Ginny.
They were among the 8,000 people -- some were victims' loved ones, while others were survivors -- who came out for the Lustgarten Foundation's 15th annual Long Island Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk at Jones Beach.
Ginny Tetro, who worked in Stewart Manor, would have been impressed by the crowds at the beach for the fundraiser, which collected $1.3 million for research, Joe Tetro said.
"It was a great experience for her," Tetro, 57 of Elmont, said of the 2004 walk. "She thought she was going to fight this battle and thought she was going to get through it all."
The walk began in 2001 at Old Westbury Gardens as a smaller gathering, but eventually, as the walk picked up support, it outgrew the space.
Sunday's walk attracted near-record crowds, organizers said. All of the funds go directly to cancer research, organizers said, because Cablevision covers the Bethpage foundation's administrative costs. The foundation honors Marc Lustgarten, a former Cablevision executive, who died in 1999 of pancreatic cancer. Cablevision is the parent company of Newsday.
Kerri Kaplan, the foundation's executive director and chief operating officer, said the walk is an effort to raise funds for a type of cancer that is difficult to diagnose and treat.
"Today is about hope and inspiration, and raising funds for early detection," Kaplan said.
The disease is difficult to detect in its early stages, experts say. An average of just 7.2 percent of patients survive for five years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Dr. Madeline Pugliese, a Port Washington resident, walked Sunday and in years past to honor her mother, Rose Pugliese, who died at 65 in 1998, 16 months after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
When she heard of the walk in 2001, the pediatrician was 8 months pregnant with twins. She said to herself, "I have to do this." Her children "learn about her [Rose] through the walks."