Hadassah continues ‘Walking on Sunshine’


The fourth annual “Walking on Sunshine: Stepping Closer to a Cure for Brain Tumors” event, scheduled for Sunday, May 17 will be different from other walks for a cause, says Diane Maier, president of St. Louis Chapter Hadassah.

“This year’s walk will look more like a parade, with families and friends walking behind banners with their loved ones’ names on them,” says Maier. “We’re also having a small health fair.” Walkers will be offered free water and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Reggie Van Derson, a local deejay, will be on hand, plus there will be live music and entertainment for children.

“This event has never been about the actual walk. It’s about the gathering,” says Maier.

“Brain tumors are a leading cause of death in Missouri, and we want to get people together whose lives have been touched by this illness, and get information to them.”

Maier has spent the last year contacting health organizations and agencies that offer information or services to families coping with brain tumors. The Wellness Community, the Jewish Community Center and local health departments all will have tables at the event, and certified massage therapists will offer chair massages.

“Walking on Sunshine” was established at the request of the late Suzy Esstman, a close friend of Maier’s. They met in 2001, when Maier moved to the area. “Our oldest sons had met in a fifth-grade classroom, and one day Suzy popped her head into my kitchen,” says Maier.

“Suzy was one of those incredible sparks on the planet — a bubbly, energetic woman,” she recalls. “When she was diagnosed, she asked me to produce a walk to build awareness about brain tumors. She told me that people whisper about brain tumors, and that until somebody started to shout about it, no one would listen.”

Esstman took part in the first walk with Maier. She finished three-fourths of the second walk, and then addressed the participants. Esstman died in 2007.

Last year, almost 700 people took part in “Walking on Sunshine.” Since the first walk in 2006, Hadassah has raised more than $80,000 for neuro-oncology research. All the money goes to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, which has partnerships with Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis University Hospital here. New protocols and diagnostic tools have been developed with the funds from the first three walks.

Maier hopes that eventually the Hadassah web site will be a strong resource, an “information store,” for people coping with brain tumors. “Brain tumors occur across all lines – people of all religions and all ages have developed these tumors,” says Maier. “Suzy wanted the dots connected on this disease, and that’s what we are trying to do.”

Walking on Sunshine

WHAT: Mile-long “family friendly” walk

WHEN: 10 a.m. Sunday, May 17

WHERE: Queeny Park, 550 Weidman Road, Ballwin

COST: $18 for individuals or $36 for families

MORE INFO: Registration will be available at 9:30 a.m., but advance registration is appreciated. (Call 314-991-0434 or see www.stlouis.hadassah.org.)