By Remi Schott and Sara Schabe
Bundled up in a hat, scarf and gloves, Darlene Rastelli, Assistant Director of Radiology Breast Services at the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center, distributed flyers, promoting a new state of the art mobile mammography program, to people attending the 25th annual Walk for Beauty in historic Stony Brook Village.
The branch of the Stony Brook University Cancer Center introduced the $1 million, 40-foot custom van, during the first week of October. The van travels across Long Island to underserved areas providing free mammograms to women over the age of 40.
The van was not at the walk with Rastelli, it was parked in it’s designated 12-space parking spot in Ronkonkoma. It stays here when it is not travelling.
“We bring the coach van to any organizations, companies, libraries, civic associations and churches, free of charge to eliminate the barriers of women getting screened for breast cancer,” Rastelli said.
The van has a state of the art 3D mammography unit, a waiting area, a private dressing room, a complete exam room and is staffed by four different employees– half of whom speak Spanish.
In just three weeks of opening, the program has provided over 100 women with mammograms.
The van was advertised at the Walk for Beauty, a local event that raises awareness and money for breast cancer. While the van was not funded by this event, the Walk for Beauty does raise money for similar projects.
“Obviously this event raises money for breast cancer research and that’s important money for us,” Yusuf Hannun, Director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center said. “new ideas in research in breast cancer are difficult to fund otherwise and we use those dollars to start those ideas and test them out.”
The walk started in Oct. 1993 as the first of its kind in Suffolk County to spread awareness, but has grown to be a large and anticipated event within the community. This year, 850 local and out state people pre-registered.
The event has raised more than $1.4 million for the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center, over the course of the 25 years it has been organized.
“We have raised so much money for research and we donate all of it. We take nothing off the top, it all goes straight to the targeted research fund at the Stony Brook medicine,” Rocchio said.
The funds allow researchers to apply for larger, more competitive funding, Hannun explained, but money isn’t the only success in his eyes.
“It’s a whole community coming together to support cancer research, specifically cancer research and medicine,” Hannun said. “Our staff is here and they all feel energized when they see the community coming in support for what we do and that makes them want to double the efforts.”
Local companies focusing on cancer research and diagnostics sponsor the event. Their largest sponsor, Enzo Life Sciences, is a Long Island based company that focuses on labeling and detection technologies in research and diagnostics.
Enzo has been a sponsor for two years now and anticipates that their involvement will continue in the years to follow, Kara Cannon, Corporate Vice President of Commercial Operations explained.
“We were so impressed,” Cannon said. “We reached out to them to come again and I’m sure we will keep coming as long as they invite us.”
The walk is also a great chance to connect with local people you never thought you would, Jennifer Ross from Heartbeet Farms, a sustainable farm from Centereach stated. Ross handed out free cups of hot tomato soup to people there.
“I think having the walk is extremely beneficial and not just for raising money,” Ross said. “You never know who you are going to connect with, how that person can help you, or you can help them, so I think any event that is bringing people together– especially today when our society is not so together at times, is beneficial to everyone involved.”
Local businesses also jumped at the opportunity to support the local people. On the day of the walk, Village Coffee Market opened an hour early and auctioned off pink cappuccinos to the highest bidder– donating the money to breast cancer awareness.
“I think when there is a call for anything where I can help people, I’m happy to do it,” Gary Contes, the owner of Village Coffee Market said. “I have actually a list of every person who came in, I wrote down their names or who they are running for to keep in my prayers all day long.”