The Lustgarten Foundation's 11th annual Long Island Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk attracted a record crowd Sunday -- an accomplishment event organizers and participants attributed to the death last week of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
The crowd at the Jones Beach event numbered about 6,000, about 1,000 more than last year's walk and the largest group ever to participate in the fundraiser, said Kerri Kaplan, executive director of the Bethpage-based foundation. The walk is also believed to have exceeded its goal of raising $1 million for pancreatic cancer research, she said.
Jobs' death Wednesday, followed by worldwide mourning, vigils outside Apple stores and memorials on social-networking websites, came after his seven-year struggle with a rare form of the disease. He was 56.
"Unfortunately, when we lose a prominent figure, it reminds people that we need to do more research," Kaplan said. "This is a great way to do that."
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and more than 37,000 people are projected by the American Cancer Society to die from the disease this year. It attacks an organ vital to the body's ability to make energy from food.
Several walkers at Sunday's event -- in which many people strode in honor of lost loved ones -- held signs saying they were walking for Steve Jobs. Lustgarten president Dr. Robert Vizza took a picture of the crowd and announced through a microphone that he would send it to Apple.
Paul Spataro of East Meadow, who lost his brother Michael, 48, to pancreatic cancer in 2004, walked as part of a group that raised $1,900 for the event. He said he hopes Jobs' highly publicized death will result in "pressure to do more research" about early detection of the disease.
Pancreatic cancer is as swift as it is deadly, which is why much of the research about the disease focuses on early detection. Only 6 percent of those diagnosed survive five years.
Several high-profile deaths to pancreatic cancer -- including those of Jobs, Patrick Swayze and Luciano Pavarotti -- have generated attention for the disease.
"All these famous people succumb to it and people are much more aware of it," said Stephanie Giraulo of Nesconset, who lost her 60-year-old father to the disease in 2006.