Celebrating a Milestone: 20 Years of the Dallas Steps Against Melanoma Walk


By Mara Klecker

On April 20th, melanoma survivors, their families, and supporters will gather in Dallas for the annual AIM at Melanoma Steps Against Melanoma walk. This year marks two decades of the Dallas walk, with each walk drawing hundreds of participants and serving as a fundraiser for melanoma research. The goal for this year’s Dallas walk is $30,000. But those who’ve attended over the last 20 years say the event’s impact goes far beyond the dollars that are fundraised.

 “The 20th anniversary represents 20 years of hope to me,” said Julie Frampton, the coordinator of this year’s Dallas Steps Against Melanoma walk and a melanoma survivor herself. “No matter how advanced AIM at Melanoma becomes or where it branches off to, there’s still this grassroots community.”

That community feel is what keeps people coming back year after year, even if they’ve moved out of Texas or never lived there at all. Frampton said many of this year’s participants live all over the U.S. They make a point to travel to AIM walks to be alongside other survivors with whom they’ve connected over the years.

Seeing the same faces year after year is also a testament to the progress made in melanoma research over the last two decades, said Sam Guild, president of AIM at Melanoma. Thanks to advancements in available treatments for melanoma, survivorship looks much different than it did when the first group of people walked in support of melanoma research in Dallas back in 2004.

“Every year, we see more and more familiar faces, which is evidence that the work we’re doing is making a difference,” Guild said. “And we’ll receive messages and donations from people who can’t attend because they have moved away or are just busy living their lives, and that, too, is evidence of the progress we’ve made. But we are vividly reminded that there is still much work to be done when we acknowledge the people who are no longer with us at the ‘roll call’.”

The “roll call” at the Dallas walk is an annual tradition to honor those lost to the disease. Participants gather to hear each name, the year they died, and a detail that their surviving family wants to share about their loved one. Each year, the list of names grows longer.

“What started off as a list of maybe three or four names has now grown to well over 50,” Julie said. “We always take a moment of silence to honor them.”

Even with this important and sobering tribute, the event has a fun and celebratory mood because so many survivors are gathered. Additionally, a DJ will be playing music, and the warm-up before the walk can be a form of energy-boosting jazzercise. The kids who are attending can get their faces painted and a photo booth will be set up with artwork celebrating 20 years of walking to end melanoma. Frampton has also wrangled some high school and college students to volunteer, which doubles as a way to spread awareness and educate young people about skin cancer and get them an on-site skin check.

“It’s super important to me to bridge that gap and bring awareness,” Frampton said.

Scott Murray has emceed the walk since its start. He’s a melanoma survivor himself and said after decades of emceeing various fundraisers for a variety of organizations, he’s still struck by the stories from the families who’ve lost loved ones to melanoma.

“There’s this fellowship there – but it’s a fellowship with a mission,” said Scott. “It’s this mission of coming together to eradicate this insidious disease.”

Scott said it’s the “loving, caring group of people” that has drawn him back for two decades.

Chris White, the honoree at this year’s Dallas walk, attended the event for the first time last year. He wasn’t surprised by the level of support and love he felt, he said – it’s similar to the camaraderie he’s felt from connecting with other survivors online. But connecting in person is even more powerful. He credits that support for encouraging him to continue sharing his own melanoma story. Chris was diagnosed with anorectal mucosal melanoma (a rare type of melanoma) in 2018 and found out it had metastasized to his lymph nodes, lungs, liver, kidneys and eventually his brain. Over 18 months, he underwent multiple surgeries, bouts of immunotherapy, chemotherapy and radiation and a clinical trial for tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. By 2021, Chris had no evidence of disease.

Chris is now a self-published author with his most recent book, “Killing Cancer with TILs.” He also serves as a key opinion leader on the patient experience in autologous cell therapy clinical trials and travels as a keynote inspirational speaker.

“I’ve found meaning and reason in everything I’ve been through, and I hope to have an impact in sharing my story,” Chris said.

For Frampton, being surrounded by people who understand the melanoma story offers “the same underlying current that you feel when you’re with family.” She credits AIM at Melanoma and its programs for helping to connect and build that family of people who understand the melanoma journey.

Gathering in Dallas – even if it means traveling across the country to do so – is about “togetherness and hope and love,” she said. “It’s this blanketed warmth you can only get from these people who are walking this walk with you.”

Click here to participate in or donate to the Dallas Steps Against Melanoma walk.