A cheer went up in the VIP room Sunday at the More Than Pink Walk inside Baxter Arena as an official with a local breast cancer foundation told participants to raise a glass.

“We don’t make any progress in finding cures without your efforts raising money for research,” said Karen Daneu, CEO of Susan G. Komen Great Plains. “This room is full of our top fundraisers. We couldn’t do it without them.”

The room was filled with people wearing pink who toasted each other with bottles of water and cups of coffee and orange juice at this year’s annual breast cancer awareness event.

Instead of offering a timed run, like the past Race for the Cure, this year’s event featured a 1.25-mile walk following arena activities. Organizers hoped the change would underscore Komen’s core values: research, care, community and action.

More than 120 PenFed Credit Union employees from Omaha had come Sunday and raised $12,000. The group included five breast cancer survivors and the company’s Virginia-based president and CEO, James Schenck.

“This is what’s great about America,” said Schenck, who came to Omaha to help honor employees’ work fighting breast cancer. “It’s really about showing support with these kinds of walks and races all across America.”

He said it was important to honor the survivors “for the sacrifice and resilience they have shown in overcoming this deadly disease.” He said the Sunday event was also an important way to save lives and promote early screenings.

Darla Zumm, 56, of La Vista is able to count herself among the lives saved. She is an 11-year breast cancer survivor, who learned in May that she no longer needs regular checkups.

Zumm and her husband, Jim, gathered with family and friends in the VIP room. Fundraising is the key to research that leads to cures and providing services that help the people fighting cancer, she said.

“When I was first diagnosed there were so many things that I didn’t know,” she said. “Then I found out about Susan G. Komen and all the services they offered. I no longer felt that I was alone.”

Zumm stressed the importance of women seeing their doctors for annual screenings. That is how she learned about her breast cancer.

“It’s not an easy subject to bring up, but it’s so important,” she said. “That’s why I am so glad people continue to come out and continue to support this event because it raises awareness. Early detection is key to survival.”

Funds from Sunday’s event help pay for breast cancer detection, support and educational awareness across Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. Since 1994, Komen Great Plains has granted more than $8 million in education, diagnosis, treatment and support programs that serve uninsured or underinsured people.

Omaha’s More Than Pink Walk is one of more than 60 of the events held nationally, Daneu said. This year, affiliates of Susan G. Komen had the option of switching from Race for the Cure to More Than Pink, and Omaha opted in. Spokeswoman Melissa Baron said the change was well-received.

Organizers expected about 5,000 attendees on Sunday and hoped to raise $620,000. Donations are being accepted at komengreatplains.org through Nov. 15.

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kevin.cole@owh.com, 402-444-1272

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