Second Annual Walk Raises $30k for Melanoma Foundation
Oct 9, 2017
Second annual walk raises $30K for melanoma foundation
Trevor Byrnes, Megan Hoying and Natalie Byrnes participate in the second annual Walk of Steel on Oct. 1 along the West Fork River Trail. Sarah Haider/22nd Century Media.
Sarah Haider, Freelance Reporter
2:27 pm CDT October 9, 2017
Susan Steel — a Glenview resident, mother, wife and friend — passed away after a long battle with melanoma in 2016. More than 10 months later, her greatest battle still carries on, continuing in the footsteps of her loved ones at the second annual Walk of Steel on Oct. 1 along the West Fork River Trail.
“We gather together to celebrate the lives that melanoma cut short,” Stephen Sullivan, a Skin of Steel board member, told the crowd during the event. “We celebrate the melanoma survivors. We celebrate you and your effort to move forward and, more importantly, to being so supportive of the research efforts underway.”
The walk coincided with what would have been Steel’s 59th birthday and her 28th anniversary with her husband, Masuo Ishida, who also spoke at the event.
One-hundred percent of the more than $30,000 collected from the walk was donated to the Skin of Steel foundation. The nonprofit was founded in 2010 by Steel and her executive board to provoke a “revolutionary personal, behavioral and institutional change in dealing with melanoma” and create the first-ever national, collaborative melanoma tissue bank. The bank will collect biopsied, fresh, frozen primary melanoma tissues, providing the infected skin to advance medical research and improve treatment outcomes.
“It is a big deal,” said Katherine Byrnes, the foundation’s executive director. “We have doubled melanoma diagnoses in the last 30 years. Doubled. Melanoma is a small fraction of skin cancer, but it’s the most deadly. To have 10,000 people die in the U.S. this year, that’s a huge problem. Researching and funding and awareness needs to amp it up.”
Byrnes, who was diagnosed with melanoma in 2006, is a survivor. She became involved with the organization as a board member after being told about its work by Sullivan. She became the foundation’s executive director in Spring 2017. Although Byrnes never met Steel, their common passion for finding a cure connects her to the cause.
“Most people get a diagnosis and they’re like, ‘Eh.’ They don’t want to think about it. They kind of want to put it out of their head. But [Steel] had to live with it and deal with it for 11 years,” Byrnes said. “This [event] represents her because she would have loved for people to come out, and raising thousands of dollars for the tissue bank is amazing.”
Tripp Lane, a member of the foundation’s board of directors, is also an 11-time melanoma survivor. Today, he uses his experience with atypical melanoma to bring awareness of the cancer to anyone who will listen, as well as help others through the diagnosis. Steel’s journey with melanoma became a source of courage for his own.
“Susan was absolutely my inspiration,” Lane said. “She survived 10 years with numerous metastases. Most people don’t survive 10 months, let alone 10 years. She was incredible. It was her courage and determination.”
Students from Glenbrook South, Glenbrook North, New Trier and Regina were also present to show their support at the walk. 2017 marked the second year in a row that the Glenbrook South girls varsity tennis team committed to the walk. The team coordinated a bake sale at the school, published a Go Fund Me page and collected pledges, raising more than $500 as of Oct. 1.
“Every year we do the Skin of Steel walk because we are out in the sun all of the time, so keeping us safe is really important and I feel like this is a cause that doesn’t get a lot of attention even though it should,” GBS girls tennis captain Rachel Schwartz said. “We are bringing attention to it and showing that we care and we are trying to help out the cause as much as possible.”
Each of the schools that were represented at the walk also have a student that serves on the foundation’s junior auxiliary board, which works together to spread awareness and further the organization.
“This was Susan’s goal, not just a dream,” Lane said. “A dream is a dream, but a goal is a dream with plans, and she always had this goal of starting a tissue bank.”
For more information on the foundation, visit www.skinofsteel.org.