Walkers turned out in droves Saturday morning for the second annual Denise’s Day walk event in Springberg-McAndrew Park in Lake Havasu City.
Denise’s Day is a two-part event, with the walk in October to raise awareness in the community about cancer, and a benefit concert in March. Both are fundraisers for the group’s efforts to provide support for local families facing a cancer crisis. This year, the benefit concert is set for March 11, 2017, at Springberg-McAndrew Park.
Coordinators Heather Courneya and Kyle Springman said they were expecting as many as 150 walkers during Saturday’s event, which would double registration from last year.
“We want a pink river of shirts to raise awareness out there that we are here to help,” Courneya said.
The event was more personal for Springman.
“My mom was a Denise’s Day recipient, and she passed away in March of this year,” he said.
Saturday was the unveiling of the group’s latest endeavor – a big pink truck.
“We’ve been given the opportunity to take over the snack bar at SARA Park and now we have enough money for the box truck,” Courneya said.
The group gave $4,000 for the truck earlier this year.
“We were looking for an enclosed trailer and found this truck for the same price,” she said.
The money-making opportunity was provided by Lake Havasu Sunrise Rotary Club. Saturday was the unveiling of the 24-foot box truck – painted pink – with logo sponsorships of supporting businesses in town. Courneya said $200 gets a business’s logo on the truck for one year. The money is used for truck maintenance.
The Denise’s Day group consists of about 30 volunteers, including a four-man board. Both Courneya and Springman are board members alongside Michelle and Ken Pounders, who own Printing Plus, in Havasu.
The event’s roots stem from homegrown country music star Matt Farris, of Nashville, Tenn., who grew up in Havasu.
“Denise’s Day started because of my best friend from high school – David Madrid’s mom,” Farris said Saturday. “He called me and said, ‘mom has cancer,’ so me and my high school friends Justin, David and Ryan threw a party for mom Denise.”
The party was at now-closed restaurant Chuy’s in August of 2010, and Denise attended the first one, Farris said.
Denise Jay Madrid, 50, passed away Feb. 11, 2011, in Havasu, after losing her battle with breast cancer.
Farris continues on with the event to honor her memory.
“This is a huge community event,” Farris said. “I’m here every year. I started it in 2010 and I just feel I need to continue with it or else mom (Denise) will be kicking my butt.”
Farris’ touring schedule had him performing in Laughlin, Nev., on Friday night and again on Saturday night. So, this year, his performance during the Denise’s Day event fit right in. He’ll be playing there two weeks, he said.
The event kicked off at 10 a.m., with the one-mile walk that looped from the park to Kmart plaza and back up to the park again. Live entertainment included Farris’ performance and a performance by Kevin Jaxson & Midnight Sun. The event wrapped up about 3 p.m.
Vendor booths were on site selling Denise’s Day gear including items such as pens, bracelet charms, novelty pins, drink Koozies, bracelets, water bottles, travel mugs, bandanas, T-shirts and hoodies. All proceeds benefit the cause.
This year, the group booked a bounce house that has a 60-foot waterslide to help keep the children cool. One young walker was definitely going to take his turn after turning out to participate in the event.
“We wanted to help people to become better,” said Levi Dunn, 10, of Havasu, who accompanied his mother to the event. “I like it. I’m going down the slide later.”
Another fellow first-year Denise’s Day walker donned a sparkly tutu for the occasion.
“My grandmother had breast cancer,” said Laurie Thompson, who has lived in Havasu for 11 years. “And, my husband died last year of pancreatic cancer. I’m not happy with cancer.”
Thompson said she was walking in their honor on Saturday.
Organizers said $10,000 was raised Saturday and raffle tickets are currently being sold for items displayed during Saturday’s event.
They’ll be given away March 11. The items include a pink homemade travel blanket, a Traeger smoker, and a Yeti cooler. Raffle tickets vary in price. For more information, contact Heather at 928-855-7587, email DenisesDayAZ@gmail.com, or visit www.denisesdaylhc.org.