|St. Louis Hadassah Continues to 'Walk on Sunshine'|
(right) greets Joan Zucker, mother of the late Suzy Esstman,
‘Walk on Sunshine.’ Maier was a co-founder of the walk.
Despite a slightly overcast sky, St. Louis' Queeny Park
radiated with sunshine on a Sunday morning in the beginning of June as Hadassah
held its eighth annual “Walk on Sunshine” to benefit brain tumor
research. Families with dogs walked through the park, which was decorated with
balloons; music played over a DJ’s speakers; donated items in bright bags were
raffled; and Ben & Jerry’s offered free ice cream to walkers who began
their route at the playing of the song “Walking on Sunshine.” The atmosphere
was fun and sunny, emulating the vision of Suzy Esstman, an active community
member who planned the walk after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain
tumor in 2004.
Esstman was highly involved in the St. Louis
community; she worked with organizations like the Jewish Community Center,
Hadassah and Parkway School District, and volunteered with the American Cancer
Society and her sorority, Delta Gamma.
Event co-founder and close friend Diane Maier
recalled that when Esstman learned of her diagnosis, she immediately felt a
call to action. At that time she said, “I really think we should have a walk.” Maier
said Esstman chose to manage the proceeds from Walk on Sunshine through
Hadassah because of her involvement with the organization and the strides that
Israeli doctors were making in diagnostic tools and healthcare for brain tumor
patients. She said a particular triumph was the development of a blood test
that could aid in tumor detection.
When Esstman passed away in 2007, Maier rallied her
friends to continue the walk in her honor. However, it was important to Esstman
that the walk not have a somber tone after she was gone.“Suzy always said,
‘There has to be music, there has to be ice cream.’ She wanted a party
atmosphere with big energy, but people not forgetting the cause,” Maier said.
“We’re carrying on her vision—that’s why the event is so important. Everybody’s
smiling and laughing, there’s nothing down or sad because that’s not what she
Maier said that through a new sponsor, St. Louis
University, and a new program that offers the chance for individual
sponsorships for runners, the most recent walk exceeded the revenue raised in
2012. She also stressed that although Walk on Sunshine is held in Esstman’s
honor, the cause is universal.