Rain didn’t deter more than 3,000 people from walking at Jones Beach in Wantagh on Sunday to support pancreatic cancer research.
Participants in the 17th annual walk, held by the Woodbury-based Lustgarten Foundation, raised more than $850,000, with the proceeds to fund research for earlier detection, improved treatment and a cure.
Despite the pouring rain, the atmosphere was upbeat and walkers gamely pulled on their hoods and rain gear. Just minutes before the walk, participants got their energy up by dancing to a Zumba class.
Many wore purple, the color for pancreatic cancer awareness, as well as shirts emblazoned with the names of loved ones for whom they were walking.
Nancy Dintenfass, 64, was diagnosed with the cancer in June 2016. She said being at the walk and feeling the support of so many others made her feel proud.
“It’s a little bit of a rocky road. I have good days and bad days,” said Dintenfass, of Port Washington. “Today is a good day.”
Jeff Weiss, 60, of Plainview, has been living with the disease since 2014. His team of more than 20 friends and family members raised more than $26,000 for the walk. His wife, Abby, said he is “an amazing testament to how a great attitude, fortitude and determination” can help fight cancer.
Weiss has stage 4 pancreatic cancer, but it isn’t stopping him from living his life and still working as an accountant.
“What good is it to get up and stay in bed,” he said. “You can’t live life this way.”
The Lustgarten Foundation, the country’s largest private foundation supporting pancreatic cancer research, has announced it will commit $40 million over the next year and a half to fund new research projects.
One out of 67 individuals has a risk of developing pancreatic cancer, according to the foundation’s website. In 2017, there were 53,670 estimated new cases in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Carol Blum, 61, of Merrick, lost her husband, Ronnie, to the cancer in 2013, less than a year after he was diagnosed. She and her friends and family have walked in his honor for the past four years.
“It gives us all a good feeling that we are doing something in his memory and hopefully it will make a difference,” Blum said.
George Robedee, 79, of Farmingdale, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013. He said he’ll likely be on chemotherapy for the rest of his life but doesn’t have “one single complaint.”
“There’s so few of us survivors. . . . But I’m here and I’m grateful for that,” Robedee said. “I’m living with it, not dying with it.”