Smashing Walnuts Continues Push for Cancer Research

By Caroline Boras

The Smashing Walnuts Foundation will hold its fifth annual Walk and Fitness Challenge on Sunday to raise money for childhood brain cancer research.

Participants at the event, to be held at Heritage High School, can expect a variety of physical challenges specifically designed to combine fitness and fun.

“It’s a really unique event,” said Walk and Fitness Challenge chairwoman Amanda Gauldin.

In the past, the event was a walk-a-thon, but Gauldin and others at Smashing Walnuts decided to make some changes last year.

“We thought ‘what can we do to engage people?’” Gauldin said. “We really want to make it fun for everyone.”

The decision was made to rethink the walk-a-thon structure and incorporate more sponsor-participant interaction.

So far, more than 20 sponsors have signed up to host fitness challenges at this year’s walk. Gauldin said the sponsors get creative with their challenges, and she’s excited to see what they come up with. Some highlights from last year were a mattress flip, dental floss limbo and flying disc golf.

About 200 people participated in the event last year, and Gauldin said Smashing Walnuts is hoping to double attendance this weekend.

“It’s going to be a great time,” she said.

Sponsored by Current Salon and Color Bar,  event is Smashing Walnuts’ major fundraiser for the year. Founder Ellyn Miller is focusing on lobbying for the fourth year of funding for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act. The bill was named after Miller’s daughter, Gabriella, who died from an inoperable brain tumor in November 2013, three months after the Smashing Walnuts Foundation was established.

“We’ll be busy,” Miller said of the coming year. “Nonstop between what we do on Capitol Hill and what we do as Smashing Walnuts.”

In 2016 alone, Smashing Walnuts worked with DIPG Collaborative to raise $1.5 million, and individually raised $80,000 for childhood cancer and disease research.

Miller is working with Rep. Barbara Comstock’s proposed Kids First 2.0 bill, which adds an additional $320 million to the original $126 million allocated for Kids First.

Miller has seen the impact Smashing Walnuts has made in research developments since the nonprofit organization was established, and said looking forward to the future is exciting.

The walk will be held on May 21 at Heritage High School—either outside or in the gym—from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine. Registration costs $25 at Participants will receive a water bottle, a drawstring backpack and a T-shirt.

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