AUGUSTA — On the west side of the city, hundreds of pink-clad people walked in waves up and down Townsend Road this morning in the 10th annual Walk for Hope, raising money and awareness to support breast cancer programs at MaineGeneral Medical Center.

On the east side of the city, a much smaller group gathered in the dining area of the Tim Hortons restaurant on Bangor Street.

Instead of sporting caps of bright pink mohawks or pink ribbons and shirts and vests, this group was clad in gray T-shirts emblazoned with a fluorescent green yield sign and the words “Yield to white cane and guide dog users. It’s the law.”

The group, more than 30 people, included family members, friends, white cane users and several guide dogs in harnesses.

“We’re walking for awareness, safety and, most importantly, independence,” said Leona McKenna, of Augusta, her collapsible white cane in a pouch on her belt while she waited for the walk to begin.

Lynn Merrill, of Augusta, first vice president of the Pine Tree Guide Dog Users, said the walk location was a deliberate choice.

“Bangor Street has been a dangerous pedestrian area in the past few years,” she said. “It’s a good place to exercise white cane safety awareness to remind drivers they need to be aware of people walking with a white cane.”

Two pedestrians were struck by vehicles there in separate accidents in March 2012; the teenage girl recovered, but an 81-year-old woman died a week afterward. In 2011, three pedestrians were struck, and two died, one of them a 17-year-old girl who died four days after the accident on the same roadway.

On Saturday, Augusta Mayor William Stokes, wearing one of the yield sign T-shirts, read a proclamation naming the date White Cane Safety Day throughout the city. This was Stokes’ third year joining the Pine Tree Guide Dog Users for their march. After a previous walk, he worked with other city officials to help to ensure the crossing signals were long enough for people to cross streets safely without having to sprint.

John McMahon, director of the Department of Labor’s Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, spoke as well, saying “We’re part of the community, and what better place to start this than in the middle of the community?”

While most of the participants were from Augusta, some came from Clinton, Fairfield, Bangor and elsewhere.

Pauline Lamontagne, president of Pine Tree Guide Dog Users, said white cane safety walks have been held nationally since 1960. Portland and Presque Isle also were holding white cane and guide dog safety walks today, she said.

Merrill led the large group heading out of the restaurant on the long march. Lamontagne and her guide dog, Anouk, of Augusta, led the handful of white cane and guide dog users on the shorter trek.

The groups were careful to use the crosswalks and crossed the busy road at signalized intersections. Unlike many other locations in Augusta, no roadwork was underway near the walk.

Karen MacGillivray, owner of both Tim Hortons in the city, welcomed the walkers to her restaurant for the second year in a row, treating them to coffee and lunch.

“I think it’s a good cause,” MacGillivray said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
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