Along Santa Monica beach, you’ll find many people walking around. Tourists walking along the Pier for the first time, locals aimlessly plodding about for a brief respite from the 9 to 5 and kids looking for that next shiny thing in the sand.
This weekend, however, you’ll see about 1,000 people clad in white and purple walking along the beach, all in the name of a good cause.
Wendy Walk, a hands-on, family-run nonprofit that raises awareness and funds in their fight against a rare type of cancer, will host its 10th annual charity walk in Santa Monica on Sunday, June 9. The walk will begin at Hotel Casa del Mar and travel down the Santa Monica beach for roughly 3 miles.
The organization and walk was founded by the Landes family during their mother Wendy’s liposarcoma battle and is carried on in her memory.
Ali Landes, one of Wendy’s daughters, has been a shepherd of the organization for ten years now. While her mother’s prognosis occurred ten years ago, Landes still remembers when she heard the word “liposarcoma” for the first time, 2008.
“My mom had a 12-pound tumor,” Landes said. “She immediately found out it was cancer but we didn’t know what kind it was, we never heard of this one. We didn’t really know until later after Googling and doing our own research.”
The elder Landes underwent a ten-hour surgery which resulted in the removal of her spleen and kidney. The Landes family assumed the worst was behind them.
“We thought she was done… then It came back six months later,” Landes added. “That’s when we were like, okay, this is a bad prognosis. There was only one medication approved by the FDA and her body didn’t take to it. Things looked dark. That’s when we thought we had to find something for her, do something for her.”
This spurred her and the Landes family into creating Wendy’s Walk, a walk along the Santa Monica Beach that always helped Wendy feel alive when things were bleak.
The walk is a testament to Wendy’s favorite pastime, fitness, while the organization itself is a testament to Wendy as a person — caring, kind and involved.
Wendy herself was a family attorney who cared for her clients like family, something the organization does with those afflicted by the disease and those adjacent to that suffering.
Landes says the organization started as just friends and family wanting to help those who experienced what they had to go through. Eventually, it grew into an efficient 100-person-or-so nationwide network.
“What makes Wendy Walk special is because we are family-run, it feels like a family reaching out to people. Patients become family and their friends become part of our network,” said Landes. “If patients need rides, second opinions, third opinions, we’ll give you a ride or reach out to someone who can. We want to help.”
Landes mentions helping sarcoma patients with housing if they must relocate, therapy options, even gift bags, anything to help ease the mind while the body battles on.
“We want to be a resource as long as we’re needed,”Landes said. “Even if there’s no money for funding research, there will always be a need for us to help patients navigate the system and find the right doctors. I’m proud of that, the direct patient contact.”
Within its decade of existence, Wendy Walk has raised roughly $4 million for sarcoma research. Their efforts have helped a Stanford doctor secure a $500,000 grant for cancer research and has helped the lives of many.
Though the organization’s accomplishments are vast, it’s the thought of making Wendy proud through the Wendy Walk’s efforts that fulfills Ali the most.
“I think mom would be really proud,” Landes said. “My mom was always very prepared, very successful, very persistent. She’d be proud that we stuck to this, funded research and we keep her spirit and legacy alive. I think what she’d be most proud of is that we’re helping other people.”
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