HOULTON, Maine – The community of Houlton is well-known for being supportive of those undergoing cancer treatments.
Further proof was in evidence Saturday when several hundred people came out to show their support for those battling cancer, or to honor the memories of someone they have lost to the disease, by participating in the 17th annual Bridge to Hope cancer walk.
Last year’s walk drew nearly 200 people and generated a then-record $25,000, leaving organizers to ponder how they would ever match that total. So when more than 300 individuals showed up this year, things looked promising.
And when receipts from the walk were tallied, the non-profit group set a new record for funds raised at $28,518. Additional money came in Monday evening when the Houlton boys and girls soccer teams made their presentations to the group from raffle ticket sales. The soccer clubs collected an additional $3,001, bringing this year’s haul to $31,933.
“We are absolutely blown away,” said Dee Butler Henderson, one of the founding members of Bridge to Hope. “Given the cost of everything these days, we sure do live in a generous community.”
The outpouring of support has grown steadily in recent years. The 2020 event generated $16,050, while in 2019 it collected $12,306.
Saturday morning’s heavy rains broke prior to the start of the walk, leaving just a light sprinkle — which organizers of the event called “tears from heaven.” Participants were encouraged to take a moment and think of those who have passed from cancer before tossing a flower into the Meduxnekeag River in their memory.
“The amount of people who have shown up today is representative of what we do every day on a daily basis,” said Kim Folsom, a founding member of Bridge to Hope. “We could not do what we do without everyone who is here today.”
Bridge to Hope is a non-profit organization that helps families with financial support during cancer treatments by providing gift cards for gasoline to aid in travel expenses, assistance with lodging as well as gift baskets or flower arrangements.
One of those individuals undergoing her own battle with cancer at Saturday’s walk was Houlton native Aimee (Thompson) Beaton, a 2004 graduate of Houlton High School.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “I still consider Houlton my home and my community.”
That community surprised Beaton Saturday as nearly 100 family and friends showed up to support her, donning specially-made T-shirts with the slogan “Beaton It” emblazoned on the front.
A mother of three small children, Beaton, who now resides in Glenburn, was diagnosed with breast cancer back in January.
“I felt a lump in my left breast and pursued care from there,” she said. “On March 17, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 carcinoma.”
Beaton said she underwent surgery in Boston to have a mastectomy and has been undergoing chemotherapy and will soon start radiation therapy.
“I have a good prognosis,” she added. “We found it early enough and I am hopeful that by next year’s walk I will be done with this process and be cured.”