MANHATTAN, N.Y. (PIX11) — PanCAN PurpleStride, a walk to raise awareness and funds for pancreatic cancer, took place in Manhattan Saturday. It was one of 60 walks like it happening across the country.

The annual event returned in person this year after being canceled due to the pandemic. Around a thousand people started the walk near Pier 17 before continuing through the city. The New York City event raised more than $500,000, organizers said.

Shantel Vogel walked for her father who died last year from the illness. “It’s impacted so many people and it’s beautiful to see so many people come together and it’s a great day to walk,” she said. “Everyone is in a great mood and remembering their loved ones, it’s amazing.”

Public speaker Christina Helena hosted the event’s opening ceremonies. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when she was 19 and was given just six months to live. “I am a pancreatic cancer survivor, so this is a really important event for me. It means awareness, hope and support,” Helena said.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the world’s toughest cancers. The five-year survival rate hovers around 11%, according to the event’s organizers. Sid Levinson’s grandfather and father both died of cancer, so he recently underwent genetic testing for the disease.

“My doctor was aware of that and my family history and my age and said, ‘I’m going to give you an MRI just to see what’s going on,’ and low and behold, it revealed, this was back in September, that I had a small tumor on my pancreas,” Levinson said.

Levinson had surgery to remove the tumor and is in the process of completing chemotherapy. He said early detection may have saved his life, which is why he is encouraging others to also get checked early. Many survivors agree.

“Let’s be comforted and remember all the loved ones that we have lost from this disease. Let’s keep connecting with each other and being there for each other,” said Helena. “Keep working as a team and we can make a world where all the patients with pancreatic cancer can thrive.”

Survivors say early detection and more research will lead to longer survival rates.