Who Is Tammy Walker?

A statue titled, "Running Free," shows a happy young girl, pigtails flying backwards, a tranquil smile on her face and perched on one leg on a pedestal outside the Tammy Walker Cancer Center.

The statue is a public tribute to a young girl, Tammy Walker, whose young life ended all too soon. Salina businessman Charlie Walker and his children gave the lead gift through their foundation, The Walker Family Foundation, for construction of the center that is named for her.

Walker says the decision to make the donation in honor of Tammy Walker, the fifth of six children born to him and his first wife, Margie Walker, was an easy one for the child he called, "a Daddy's girl."

Tammy, born in 1962, died in 1973 at the age of 11 from lung cancer. She was a sixth grade student at St. Mary's Grade School at the time of her death.

Walker said she was a lively child who had several loves: school, people, her horse and her dog. She also liked to run and compete as a sprinter in track competitions. He describes her as a child who brought sunshine into his life and those in his family, and it was difficult for all of them to see her ill.

Walker said Tammy developed a chronic cough about a year before she died. Treatment was first sought in Salina, but when doctors ran tests they couldn't determine the problem. They sent her to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. Doctors there diagnosed her with lung cancer and treatment consisted of the removal of one of her lungs even though the cancer had spread to other areas of her body.

Tammy was transferred back to St. John's Hospital in Salina so that the family could be near her, and was hospitalized for three to four months before she died.

Walker said he and the family didn't hesitate when approached by Tom Martin, director of the Salina Regional Health Foundation, for a donation to the cancer center's Blueprint for Hope campaign. In the last 10 years, the Walker Family Foundation has donated money to a variety of causes in the Salina community.

"When you lose a child, you do everything for the other kids, help them in different ways," Walker says. "We decided this would be our gift to her, since we couldn't do anything else for her all these years."