Rays of Hope Breast Cancer Walk and Run goes virtual (pictured)
The 27th Annual Rays of Hope Walk and Race to Cure Breast Cancer has become the virtual challenge 2020, as COVID has made the local traditional breast cancer fundraiser look very different this year. There were no long streams of walkers and runners passing through the neighborhoods or on the road routes in and around the Western Mass. Instead, attendees walked through the celebratory gathering at the Baystate Health Center on Whitney Avenue in Holyoke on Sunday, gathering their rays of hope T-shirts and swag.
In past years, over 25,000 people gathered on Rays of Hope Sunday and last year nearly $ 600,000 was donated by attendees, with every dollar remaining in Western Mass. This year, the organizers are unsure of the final financial result. Nonetheless, the rays of hope continue.
“The only thing we knew was that Hope would never be canceled,” said Kathy Tobin, director of annual giving for the Baystate Health Foundation. “We needed to find a way to do it safely according to our best public health practices, while still raising funds for the most important cause – keeping breast cancer survivors on the path to wellness through local programs, support and research.
“We are making history for sure,” said Rays of Hope 2020-2021 co-chair Jacqueline Rodriguez. “It turned out to be a virtual celebration, a parade of cars. But it’s always exciting to see our community come together and make this happen no matter what. “
Jacqueline ‘Big’ co-chair Al Rodriguez said the key word for the celebration was ‘Hope’.
“That’s what hope is. It doesn’t matter what that throws you through, ”he said. “Take this pandemic and the ‘new’ normal; we had to find ways to make it happen because the cancer doesn’t stop, the breast cancer continues. It doesn’t take a break. We are doing virtual history and it feels great to have support from everywhere for this great cause. “
Some things are very similar. The huge pink arch that all the runners walked through as they completed the three or five mile runs was still there, even though you walked through it this year. The Pink Jumbotron, sponsored by Radiology and Imaging, posted photos of participants and sponsors. The Pink Hope Lounge had special gifts for breast cancer survivors while the Big Wigs Tent had a special bag for those who raised the most donations.
The biggest wig was Diane Lindeland who, along with her family and friends, improved all the other teams. Lindeland is fighting metastatic breast cancer with radiation therapy and a new chemotherapy regimen. Along with daughter Ashley, future daughter-in-law Ashley Williams and close friend Judy Carty, Lindeland raised $ 4,025 for all local breast cancer victims.
“Cancer is difficult, but I am very fortunate to have my daughter and my friends and a great team who have supported me for the past nine years,” she said. “We’ve been part of it every year since 2012 and this year we finally made it to the number 1 team.”
Rays of Hope began in 1994 when Lucy Carvalho invited her friends and family to walk their friends and family and pledge donations. This first year, 500 people came and raised $ 50,000,
“I always said it was ordained by God because it came together as if it had been orchestrated,” she said on Sunday. “It was just beautiful.
But this year, not so much.
“I feel like we’re making history again like we did in 1994, but in a different way,” she said. “It’s a little sad that COVID has entered our lives and damaged our lives. But, as breast cancer survivors, we had to get used to a new normal once. It’s like a new normal for us. We may be practically doing it this year, but we are here and we support each other.