A task as simple as spreading lotion over his skin could have saved a Fort Collins man’s life.
After the 36-year-old Bill Walter III lost a battle with melanoma skin cancer in 1998, his family and friends created a program to transform their grief into healing.
“I want my husband’s legacy to live on through raising awareness,” said Bill Walter’s widow, Kathy Walter. “We’re turning our pain into somebody else’s gain.”
The Bill Walter III Melanoma Research Fund organizes events and other means of raising money to benefit melanoma patients as well as scientific research. So far, the fund has raised over $100,000 through events like symposiums, races and silent auctions.
“We give the money to melanoma patients, no questions asked,” Kathy Walter said. “They can use the money however they want.”
Each year in the United States, more than 53,600 people learn they have melanoma skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. The disease becomes more common each year.
Research shows that Coloradoans may be at a higher risk to skin cancer, Kathy Walter said, partly because of the high altitude.
Bill Walter also left behind two children: a son, Austin Walter, who is now 9 years old, and a daughter, Katherine Walter, who is now 6 years old.
Kathy Walter said Austin and Katherine apply sunscreen as part of their daily routine. Kathy also encourages them to wear hats and to stay out of the sun when possible, all of which are methods of preventing skin cancer.
“One severe blistering sunburn before the age of 18 doubles the likelihood of developing skin cancer,” Kathy Walter said.
The most recent local event held in Bill Walter’s name was a 5-K run/walk that took place at the Oval on Saturday.
“I think the race went really well,” said Andrea Carhart, one of the CSU student co-organizers of the run/walk called RayZ Awareness. Carhart estimated approximately 150 participants showed up.
In addition to the race, participants received free skin cancer screenings at RayZ Awareness.
“When we lay out in the sun, we’re exposing ourselves to skin cancer and we may not even realize it,” Carhart said. “I don’t think people are aware how deadly melanoma is.”
Bill Walter was born and raised in Daytona Beach, Fla., and worked as a lifeguard in his teenage years, according to billwalteriii.org. His biography also says he “never wore sunscreen.”
Seren Waldman, a senior journalism major, also helped organize the fundraiser on Saturday. She said the turnout was not as successful as she had hoped, but still went fairly well.
RayZ Awareness, along with a silent auction held the night before, raised approximately $4,000, Kathy Walter said.
Kathy Walter said she would like to get more involved with the CSU community, perhaps by working with fraternities and sororities or speaking on campus. Anyone interested can contact her at (970) 229-0238.