"We Each Have Our Own Reasons"

A group of Manassas Park and Manassas area women have banned together to raise awareness for breast cancer research and support each other through their group, Shirl's Girls.

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon and an eclectic band of women are gathered in the den of a modest home in Manassas Park.

Gleeful squeals and laughing radiate from the room as the women chatter among themselves. A casual bystander may think that these women must have known each other for a lifetime or, at least since college. But it isn't college that draws these women together—it’s a cause.

Shirl's Girls is a group of 11 women, most of whom are from Manassas Park, who are raising money to participate in the  Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure in Washington D.C. in September.

Each member has her own reason for walking, said Shirl Girl Christine Stone.

Some are cancer survivors, said Stone, who survived colon cancer.

Manassas Park resident Greta Dunn joined Shirl's Girls four years ago after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I am a breast cancer survivor," Dunn said. "I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of 2007. It was caught very early. It was caught by a mammogram.

I was (scared) but I kind of put everything in God's hands."

Dunn is the reason why her neighbor, Robyn Fennell got involved in the walk. Now a Shirl's Girl, Fennell said she this will be her third time participating in the walk.

Stephanie Lykins of Haymarket said this is her first year as a Shirl's Girl

"I've been fortunate in a sense, I haven't had anybody in my family to suffer from breast cancer," she said.  "Unfortunately, all the other cancers seem to be rampant. I lost my aunt to colon cancer ... it came on very quickly. My best friend's mom just got diagnosed with colon cancer and my uncle just got diagnosed with lung cancer.  They don't have any walks for colon cancer. so this is the way I'm going to give back and be active in the search for the cure."

Lykins said she is a little nervous about her first walk, but looks to group founder Bobbi Beers for support.

"I'm scared to death, 60-miles in three days," Lykins said. "But if (Bobbi) can do it, I can do it."

There are pit stops along the way and "Sweep Vans," which are vehicles that pick up injured or exhausted walkers and transport them to the next stop.  The Shirl's Girls who particpated in last year's walk made a promise they would all walk the course and finish together without the help of a Sweep Van, said Shirl Girl Mary Church of Manassas, who walked 60 miles for her best friend in Oklahoma who was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The members are hoping to do the same this year.

Shirl Girl Nicki Bland said she plans on doing not one, but two walks this year one in DC and one in Atlanta. 

This will be my third year walking ... my best friend from high school was from the Atlanta area and battled breast cancer for seven years.  She lost her battle with breast cancer last December and passed away when it spread throughout her body," Bland said.   "She was a huge inspiration in life and continues to touch people as we share her story.  I also have three daughters and three nieces who I am determined to help know a world without breast cancer."

Mary Ellen Shaw, who has been with the group from the very beginning, said she becomes her "alter ego," a super hero called, "Super Boob" to encourage the team members.

Shaw dresses up in a pink wig, rose-colored glasses, pink boxing gloves, a bra worn on the outside of her clothes and a cape with the name " Super Boob." adorned on the back.

" I walked for two years and I said, 'enough'  ... so Super Boob came about," Shaw said. "I decided that I would surprise them. I went to Walmart and I got the things to make the cape and that's how Super Boob began.  They were walking down the street and I had the wig and the whole nine yards and all of a sudden they realized who it was."

She has become sort of become the team mascot, Shaw said. Super Boob's picture has even made it into the metro section of Washington Post,  Shaw said.

Beers, the original Shirl Girl, said this is her eighth year participating in the walk.

The group started out with just four members who called themselves, "Team Beers," Beers said.

"We decided we needed a better name," Beers said.

Her sister came up with the name Shirl's Girls after their mother who is a three-time cancer survivor.

Though she doesn't consider herself a cancer survivor, Beers said she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer while in her twenties and had to have the entire gland removed.

Each team member needs to raise more than $2,000 to participate in the walk.

Speedy Green Car Wash is donating a percentage of money earned from each car wash to Shirl's Girls.

The Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation made Signal Hill Park available to the group for the third annual Boobie-Que, the group's pig roast fundraiser.  The Boobie-Que will be held on May 7 from 2 to 7 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the gate for $25 or in advance. Children 12 and younger are admitted for free.







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