By Louis Pagillo and Eric DiCrescenzo
The annual “Making Strides for Long Island” breast cancer awareness walk at Jones Beach raised $2.6 million this past Sunday.
The walk was the largest of many events on the Island aiming to promote breast cancer awareness. Charities and medical facilities like the American Cancer Society, the Maurer Foundation and the Fortunato Breast Health Center have all organized events and donation drives in observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for October. This is especially important for Long Island, where breast cancer rates are among the highest in the New York, according to data provided by the state’s health department.
“Look around you,” Christina Haskell, Making Strides’ community development manager said, pointing to the crowd of hundreds of walkers. “Whether you’re a survivor or a caregiver, they support each other.”
The “Making Strides” walk, which was organized by the American Cancer Society, had 65,000 attendants, according to the event’s facebook page. A second walk is planned for Sunday at Suffolk Community College’s Eastern Campus.
The Maurer Foundation, a breast health education organization, is also hosting several events this month, along with donation drives held by their partners. On October 2, they held the Pink Diamond Gala at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. There were over 300 guests, and they raised $270,000 for the foundation’s breast health education programs.
“We all know someone who is affected by Breast cancer,” Susan Samaroo, the executive director of the Maurer Foundation said. “We know that education is power. We know that empowering our Long Island Community with our breast health education is going to help save lives.”
The Maurer Foundation’s last event of the month was “Cocktails for a Cause,” which was held Tuesday night.
Since the first day of October, the Fortunato Breast Health Center, which operates out of Mather Hospital, has been hosting a month long outreach campaign in Port Jeff called “Paint Port Pink.” The campaign started from a one-day event that was held for 20 years called “Victory Day,” where a walk took place with several tents and events available for participants. Most of the participants of this event were from the city, so the breast health center created Paint Port Pink in order to reach more of the local Long Island population. This is the fifth year the outreach program has been held.
“Long Island has long been regarded as a hotspot for breast cancer,” Stuart Vincent, Mather Hospital’s director of public relations said, “It’s important for people to know that if you go for a yearly mammogram and detect it early enough, the outcomes are much better.”
Paint Port Pink’s events included a pumpkin painting contest, a craft night, wear pink day and a fitness event. There are also several month-long donation drives by some of the program’s 210 partners. The program’s final event, “Healthy U,” a breast education exhibition, will be held on Saturday at Mather Hospital.
The fitness event, which included several free aerobic workout classes throughout the day and a hairdresser providing pink hair extensions, took place at Redefine Fitness in Mount Sinai. The fitness event raised $400 in total.
“We love helping out with events like this,” Anthony Amen of Redefine Fitness said, “we have a few members that had breast cancer and some people close to me have dealt with it, so it’s awesome for me to help out.”
“I think it’s extremely comforting to survivors that they feel the love and support and know that they’re not alone as they fight the fight,” Patty Parendo, a 23-year breast cancer survivor said at the Jones Beach walk.