The color pink is the color of hope

Survivors, volunteers and loved ones came together to fight breast cancer

Jessica Simms, Arts and Life Editor

The color pink was spotted from all over the Lighthouse Point Park on Sunday, Oct. 20. People from all around Connecticut came together to walk, volunteer and celebrate Making Strides of Greater New Haven’s 13th annual breast cancer walk.

The American Cancer Society started the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk to bring together communities to help fight against the deadly disease of breast cancer. These walks, that occur nationwide, help raise money for the American Cancer Society to continue breast cancer research and provide other patient services, such as free rides to chemotherapy treatments, free places to stay near where these treatments occur and to continue having a live, 24/7 cancer helpline.

“Remember, what unites us, ignites us,” Danny Lyons, the main speaker of New Haven’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, said right before the walk began. “Today we are all united in our effort to defeat breast cancer. Don’t let the excitement and hope that you feel today end when the walk is over.”

Hundreds of loved ones, survivors, supporters and teams made up of families, students and friends stood by the pink starting line at around 1 p.m. to begin walking for the hope to cure breast cancer. Many teams wore shirts with the name of someone they were walking for, just like Christa Anderson and the team she was walking with.

“I am here (at Making Strides of Greater New Haven walk) to support one of my dear friends, Audrey,” Anderson said wearing a shirt with Audrey’s name on it. “This is my first time (participating in the walk). (Audrey’s) fighting breast cancer right now. She should be (at the walk) soon too. That’s why we’re here.”

Alongside walkers, supporters and volunteers, the walk was also blessed to have many breast cancer survivors attending and participating in the walk. These survivors were encouraged to stop by a booth, just meant for them, to pick up sashes to wear, roses and pins indicating how long they have been cancer free for.

“It is an honor to work at the survivor table,” Suzanne Powell, a volunteer working at the survivor table, said. “To cheer them on and listen to their story and celebrate them. We were asked to do it and happy to volunteer.”

Volunteers, just like Powell, helped make the overall experience of the Making Strides of Greater New Haven walk be special and meaningful for the teams, walkers and survivors that came out to participate. Not only did these volunteers help run booths, such as face painting and booths to buy merchandise, but a lot of these volunteers had strong connections to the cause of breast cancer and overall dedication to help make the experience for any one who came out to walk, the best it could be.

“I just enjoy helping people,” Renee Kennedy, a volunteer at the Making Strides of Greater New Haven walk. “This is a great event. You know people who have survived and went on and it is just good to give back.”

Quinnipiac University students also came out to volunteer and make teams to participate to help benefit this meaningful cause. Students from many organizations, such as sororities and fraternities, worked booths, such as the face painting one, to help out the volunteer staff.

“My aunt had breast cancer and some of my family members did, so it means a lot to me to be able to come out here and help out as much as I can,” Delaney Brown, a junior history major, said.

For all, the walk was powerful. The feeling of community, camaraderie and hope took over the Lighthouse Point Park as walkers, volunteers and survivors came out in front of the stage, waiting for the walk to begin, listening to speakers, such as Dawn White, who have a personal connection to breast cancer and the American Cancer Society.

“My mother was a breast cancer survivor for 12 years,” White, the president of Sisters’ Journey, a breast cancer support and advocacy group for women of color, said. “Unfortunately, she eventually passed away from metastatic breast cancer. My personal experience with the American Cancer Society was when my mother was sick with breast cancer for the second time and I was absolutely devastated and looking for answers. I called ACS and not only got answers to my questions, but also got comfort in knowing day or night I could call someone to talk about what I was going through with my mom.”

Connection to breast cancer was a reason why some people decided to come volunteer or participate in the walk on a crisp fall day, but for some others, the feeling of community is what helped them decide to come out to the Making Strides of Greater New England walk.

“Just being together,” Kennedy said about what she hopes herself and others take away from this event. “Just being here for each other, no matter if you know them (the other) or not. Praying for them.”

Hope is another reason why people came out to the walk. The idea that maybe there will be a world without forms of cancer, such as breast cancer, is what helped people decide to come and participate in the walk. The fact that the United States, with help from walks and events such as Making Strides, is helping increase the survival rate of breast cancer.

“Your help in the American Cancer Society made progress possible and because of that, their efforts are having an impact,” Lyons said into the microphone before the walk began. “Listen to this statistic. The United States breast cancer death rate has declined, yet again, from the time in 1991. This time by 40%. That translates to more than 348,000 lives saved.”

With statistics like that, showing that participants in walks, such as Making Strides, can make an impact, people leave the walk, feeling hopeful, encouraged and motivated to continue making an impact.

Kathy Duda, volunteer at the survivor table, listed off what she hopes participants and volunteers take away from being at the Making Strides event. 

“Encouragement. Hope. Awareness.”