Rays of Hope returns with 10,000 people marching, topping $320,000 raised for breast cancer research

SPRINGFIELD – Rays of Hope returned in person this year as excited as ever and with long term plans to prepare for any future disasters.

Over the past 29 years, the event has grown in popularity and raised $16 million, but the last walk and run to raise money for breast cancer research was in 2019. The pandemic of COVID-19 has forced the event to go virtual in 2020 and this has been replaced by a parade of cars in 2021.

On Sunday, he returned with around 10,000 people participating. Survivors and their supporters created a sea of ​​pink as they gathered for a pre-event celebration in the Temple Beth El parking lot. This was followed by a pink wave as walkers and runners wearing hats , scarves, jackets and pink sweaters headed for a 2 or 5 mile course in and around Forest Park.

“They’ve been doing hybrid events (during the pandemic) and it was fun with the cars all decorated, but having that crowd back is so much better,” said Dr. Mark Keroack, President and CEO. from Baystate Health.

All money raised stays in Western Massachusetts and goes towards cancer research, treatment and education. One of the main projects funded by Rays of hope studies breast cancer markers and uses data to try to determine why some get cancer and others don’t, he said.

In-person events also raised more money than virtual events. Last year, $320,000 was donated to Rays of Hope, and this year organizers said they beat that tally before the walk even started. It will take several days before the final totals are tabulated.

Lucy Giuggio Carvalho, a breast cancer survivor, founded the event while she was still undergoing treatment. Nearly three decades later, she said her goal was to find a cure so he was no longer needed.

“It may not be sunny, but it’s sunny in our hearts,” she said, referring to the overcast skies. “There’s nothing like being face to face.”

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Although the event and fundraiser survived the COVID-19 pandemic, Giuggio Carvalho said it made him realize that Rays of Hope needed a long-term strategy to ensure that the money is available for research and education until it is no longer needed.

During the event, she and Kathy Tobin, director of annual giving and events for the Baystate Health Foundation, announced plans to create an endowment fund in addition to the walk. Such a fund will help ensure that doctors and researchers will have funding even if another disaster prevents walking and running from taking place.

“I think we’ve bounced back,” said Lindsey Bubar of East Longmeadow, this year’s chair for the Rays of Hope event.

Looking out at the sea of ​​people, Bubar singled out the family and friends who formed “Lindsey’s Tribe” many years ago and thanked everyone who came out for someone else: “Behind every survivor is a system really great support.”

“I’ve been a five-year cancer survivor, and I fully intend to be a 10-year survivor and a 20-year survivor,” she said. “I plan to live my life to the fullest.”

But she also recalled that the many people who died from the disease asked for a minute of silence.

Dr. Grace Makari-Judson, associate medical director of the Baystate Regional Cancer Program and co-director of the Rays of Hope Center for Breast Cancer Research, explained how fundraising enabled the research center to create a breast cancer registry board of directors. breast cancer to give doctors insight into the impact of the disease on the residents of the Pioneer Valley.

Currently, one in eight people in the region suffers from breast cancer. Makari-Judson said researchers have been trying to figure out what protects the unafflicted seven.

“In breast surgery, many things have changed and for the better. And our technology has improved and our techniques have improved and we are learning how to treat patients better by, in many cases, doing less,” she said. “When we needed help, when we needed funding for some of this technology, Rays of Hope has always been there for us,” she said.

L to R- Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Jackie and Al Rodriguez, and Kathy Tobin of the Baystate Health Foundation at the 29th Annual Rays of Hope to Cure Breast Cancer Walk and Run taking place at the Temple Beth parking lot El on Dickinson St in Springfield on October 23 in Springfield. (Photo by Ed Cohen)

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and City Council Speaker Jesse Lederman also attended the event and said they were proud that it ran through the city’s Forest Park.

Sarno said he’s been walking for 27 years and still enjoys the camaraderie it brings, so he’s happy to bring it back in person. He always wears shorts to show off his hot pink socks printed with dark pink ribbons, which he has “reused” from when his daughter was a footballer.

Looking around at the thousands gathered, Sarno marveled that it all started at Giuggio Carvalho’s kitchen table. Last year, City Hall employees along with their friends and family raised $10,000 for Rays of Hope. So far they’ve raised $6,000 this year, but haven’t finished yet.

Attendees ranged from people who attend walkers every year for the first time such as Marissa Szczepanek, owner of Bridal Corner of Chicopee, who was joined by a team of half a dozen supporters dressed in pink tutus and veils roses.

“It’s overwhelming and surreal, but just taking this photo of all the survivors, it seemed like everyone was supporting us,” she said, referring to a group photo taken of all the survivors. before the start of the walk.

Szczepanek was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in September 2021 and after treatment she is now cancer free.

Major sponsors of this year’s Rays of Hope include Baystate Breast & Wellness Center, Baystate Breast Specialists, Chicopee Savings Charitable Foundation, Gilead, Golden Years Home Care Services, Kinsley Power Systems, Radiology & Imaging, Inc., USA Waste and Recycling and Zasco Productions. . Several other companies and teams also served as sponsors.

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