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Over 2,600 participants walked the Detroit Zoo Saturday morning for 'A Walk at the Zoo,' which raised $276,000 to reduce the financial strain of everyday expenses for women battling breast cancer.

First Lady Sue Snyder, herself a cancer survivor of nearly 12 years, cut a ceremonial ribbon as honorary chair to kick off the event.

"It's just so incredible to be a survivor of eleven — nearly twelve now — years," she said, wearing a pink pullover. "It's so important for women who have to pay bills while they go through treatment."

The annual fundraiser was put on by Shades of Pink Foundation, a non-profit volunteer-driven organization that provides financial support to women while they battle breast cancer to relieve the financial burden. Financial assistence is given for utility bills, rent, mortgage payments, transportation and other critical costs.

Fidelia White, who learned her cancer was in remission in February and found support in SOPF during her treatments, attended with her husband, Victor.

"They helped me with three different car payments and gave me a Kroger food card for support," White, a resident of Detroit, said.

Karen Waldron, who last year served on the board of SOPF, was diagnosed with breast cancer six weeks ago and told a tent full of particpants and sponsors that the foundation is important "so no woman has to worry about financial distress as they heal."

SOPF was founded in 2005 by Suzanne Krueger and Beaumont Hospital surgeon Dr. Pamela R. Benitez, making this year the tenth anniversary of 'A Walk at the Zoo.'

"This was a dream," Benitez said of founding the organization a decade ago. "I'm amazed at the commitment and our sponsors who donated to make this all possible."

'A Walk at the Zoo,' SOPF's primary fundraiser, last year raised $200,000, according to the organization's website. In 2014, over 106 women were given assistance by SOPF in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Genesee Counties.

The advice Fidelia White has for women battling breast cancer: be optimistic.

"Get a great core support group" she said, looking towards her husband Victor as she spoke. "Optimism is good for the soul."

ddraplin@detroitnews.com

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