Mary's Walk began in 1999 as a way to remember and honor Mary Kerry Libby, a much-loved member of the Saco-Biddeford community, who passed away from Burkitt's Lymphoma March 7, 1997. Twenty-two years later, Mary's Walk and its companion run, the Kerrymen 5k, have raised over $3,490,000 for the people of Maine and is now one of the largest cancer foundations of its kind. Mary's Walk, a non-profit charity, donates all proceeds to the Maine Cancer Foundation, a state-wide organization focusing on early detection, access to care, and research that support cancer patients and their families.
In an all too familiar story, Mary was diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma July 5, 1996. After a courageous 8-month struggle, Mary lost her fight with cancer. She was 46 years old, leaving behind 4 beautiful children – Jessica, Katie, Matthew, and Lindsay. An avid walker, Mary was well-known in the community for her friendly smile, gracious charm, and kindness. The walk route, commencing at Thornton Academy, traces a portion of the exact route Mary walked almost daily.
Mary's Walk celebrates community and the individual spirit who, like Mary, quietly labor, love, and lead others in the fight against cancer. Each Mary's Walk we renew our commitment to life, to each other, and to the common struggle against cancer.
Mary's Walk is about making a difference at the community level in the fight against cancer. Our moniker "Making a difference is just a short walk away" reminds us that we can all make a difference in the fight against cancer by contributing to cancer care and research.
KERRYMEN 5k – Maine State 5k Championship
The companion Kerrymen 5k is a USA track and field certified 5k course. In 2019, the road race was designated by the Road Runner Club of America as the Maine State 5k Championship. Up to 1,000 runners participate annually.
ONE MILE DEDICATION
In October 2013, the City of Saco dedicated a bronze plaque at the 1-mile mark of the Kerrymen 5k. The plaque reads:
In memory of Mary Kerry Libby (1951-1997) and all those lost to cancer. With the commitment of volunteers and support of the City of Saco millions of dollars have been raised for cancer research for the people of Maine.
EASTERN TRAIL DEDICATION – MARY'S WALK
On August 9, 2014, the City of Saco dedicated a portion of the Eastern Trail bordering Thornton Academy as Mary's Walk. The dedication plaque reads:
A 1970 Thornton Academy graduate, Mary, a mother of four children, was lost to cancer at the age of 46. Her indomitable spirit, friendly smile and joy of life inspired Mary's Walk, an all volunteer charitable walk / run founded in Saco in 1999 that has raised millions for cancer research for the people of Maine. Her strength of spirit and gentle soul continue to inspire good works for many.
Donald E. Pilon, Mayor
One of the signature events of Mary's Walk Celebration of Life is the opening ceremony. Annually, the State's governor, beginning with Governor John Baldacci and continuing with Governor Lepage and present governor Janet Mills, has welcomed participants at the annual event.
WHAT DOES 'SLANCHA' MEAN?
In 1995, Mary and her husband Gene celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. A proud Irish woman, Mary wanted a vanity plate with the Irish toast "Slainte" to recognize her Irish roots. The Gaelic term "Slainte" has various interpretations, but generally is used as a common toast meaning "to your health." Unfortunately, the correct spelling of the Gaelic term Slainte was already assigned so Mary adopted the phonetic spelling of "Slancha." Whether spelled correctly or phonetically, it has the same meaning – "to your health" or "good health."