More than just a walk around the yard | NevadaAppeal.com

More than just a walk around the yard

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer
Jen Schmidt/Nevada Appeal Andrew Asuit of Hellcraft, a band comprised solely of inmates, rocks out during the cancer fundraiser Sunday morning at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center.
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Media training probably isn’t offered along with vocational courses in electronics repair and mattress restoration at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center medium-security prison.

Don’t tell that to soundbyte-ready inmate Mark Hall, who was eager to comment during Sunday’s eighth annual cancer walk-a-thon staged at the prison yard: “Print this: When we do right nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets,” said Hall, who is originally from San Diego.

Hall, with a gray handlebar mustache and sunglasses that almost obscured deep crows feet creeping toward his temples, said he was “in for the duration” and “just hopes people get a positive message about the prisoners.”

Several correctional officers at the facility said while some of the 100-plus inmates who donated $15 each from their stipends to participate in the three-hour walk did so to “break up the monotony” of prison life, others were walking because they had been personally affected by cancer.

Garcia Albert claimed he helped start the walk eight years ago after losing his wife to breast cancer.

“We’ve had a lot of fun these years,” he said, “… shared a lot of stories. We want people on the outside to know that we care. This disease affects us.”

Indeed, skin cancer survivor and inmate Joe Ewish, a Chicago native, said it wasn’t until he was afflicted with cancer that he “thought much about doing the walk.”

“Now, it’s real personal,” he said.

Inmate Anthony White said his mother who still lives in the South Side of Chicago has been fighting cancer since 1992.

“I’m getting out of here in eight months,” he said. “I just want her to know I’m doing this for her and I’ll be back. I haven’t seen her since ’04. And if this is the way to tell her I’m thinking of her and it’s gonna be all right – that’s what I gotta do.”

Sunday’s walk may have been as much about communicating with the outside world as the cause they were walking for, inmate Alex Ruiz of Reno said.

“Look, it’s about giving what we can, it’s about doing what we can,” said Ruiz, who hopes to make parole in January. “A lot of us here, we just got ourselves into a bad situation. We made choices – they weren’t good ones.

“This is a good choice.”

Organizer and breast cancer survivor Pat McGaffin estimates the annual event has raised more than $118,000 through its eight years ($6,500 on Sunday). She said the reward is seeing inmates, her “friends,” come out to support her.

“You get to know these guys and they’re sincere. They’re trying to do what’s right and they’re out here doing it. What more could you ask for?” she said.

Pat Williams, president of the Carson Advocates for Cancer Care, the sole recipient of funds raised on Sunday, said the day was a “very positive” one.

“We help more than 70 people from around the area get the care they need,” he said. “And this contribution is one of the more special ones.”

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at apridgen@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.