Organizers said Monday that their Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fundraiser Sunday at Jones Beach was their largest ever -- and had the most participants in the country -- raising $2.9 million.
Michele Gort of Woodbury was one of those who walked for a cure. She overcame breast cancer more than 12 years ago, and she is convinced that the fight for awareness, research and involvement can help others.
"Everybody needs to give back, whether it's by walking, by donating funds or by sharing with someone, because the people who are well don't realize how very lucky they are," said Gort, 56, a real estate broker. "When you are diagnosed, your life stops."
Many of those on the 5-mile walk along the boardwalk wore pink to raise awareness, and they donated funds for research and educational programs. In many cases, participants recruited others to raise more money.
Organizers said the daylong gathering at its peak filled parking lots 4 and 5 at Jones Beach State Park. It was part of an effort in communities across the country.
Park estimates put the crowd at more than 55,000 people, making it the largest such walk in the country, said Anne Thorsen, senior special events director for the American Cancer Society in Hauppauge.
"We saw people in pink gorilla suits, pink tutus, pink lace," Thorsen said. "For this to happen with the Long Island community is a true testament that we are committed and helping to fight the disease." The Long Island group will continue to raise funds through 2011 as it seeks to surpass $3 million.