Several hundred volunteers took steps Saturday morning to help raise money to discover a cure for breast cancer.

The fifth annual Barbara Ireland Walk for the Cure took place at Chase Palm Park downtown at 8 a.m. to support new research on the disease, which kills over 40,000 women in this country each year. The 10-mile walk through Montecito was sponsored by the Susan Love MD Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which will receive 90 percent of the proceeds. The cost to participate in the walk was $40 for adults and $15 for children.

The foundation, whose mission is to eradicate breast cancer within 10 years, focuses on furthering research into breast cancer’s point of origin. The organization was able to raise close to $80,000 last year, with about 360 participants.

Sarene Wallace, one of the event coordinators, said many participants had personal reasons for being there and wanted to show the community that there is hope for the future.

“Everyone has a story, a reason for being here … people do this because they have been touched in some way,” Wallace said.

About 500 women and men gathered with balloons on the field of the park to hear speakers before the walk. The pink T-shirt-clad participants listened while Dr. Susan Love and Barbara Ireland, mother of model Kathy Ireland, gave speeches about new research on cancer cures. The participants then warmed up with stretches and aerobics before they began walking.

Melanie Buto, who drove from Camarillo to participate in the event, said she was happy to be making a contribution to cancer research.

“I’m excited,” Buto said. “This is for all the women who are out there suffering from this disease … someday there will be a cure.”

Shannon Sargent, a resident of Isla Vista and breast cancer survivor, said she participated both because of her own battle with the disease and for her mother, who died of breast cancer. Sargent said she was able to beat the disease because it was detected and treated early on.

“I was healthy; I felt fine … but we found the cancer with a mammogram,” Sargent said. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2002 and finished my chemotherapy in July of 2003.”

Sargent’s friend and walking partner, Santa Barbara resident and Pueblo Radiology employee Maureen Georgio, said she also believes early detection is the best way to fight the cancer before it develops.

“I work in radiology, and I see this disease everyday. Every day, I see women get the results that they have breast cancer,” Georgio said. “It’s all about awareness. Early detection is important. Cancer cells can develop within just one year, so if you have a family history [of the disease], you should get a mammogram every year once you turn 35 years old.”