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It's not to early to sign up as a walker for the Rays of Hope

SPRINGFIELD This year's Rays of Hope A Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer on Oct. 24 will "speed things up" in search of a cure with the addition of a new Run Toward the Cure 8K. The fun run, which will only step off in Springfield, is the newest addition to the 17th annual Rays of Hope Walk, which last year expanded into Franklin County. "The Run Toward the Cure 8K is an exciting new way to bring attention to breast cancer and the many efforts of the Rays of Hope on behalf of patients and their families affected by this devastating illness," Susan Toner, vice president, Development, Baystate Health, and executive director, Baystate Health Foundation, said. "The enthusiastic support we received from residents in Franklin County last year was inspiring as some 600 walkers turned out for our first-ever Rays of Hope Walk in Greenfield. And we look forward to even greater participation this year in our fight against breast cancer," she added. Last year, some 17,600 walkers in Springfield and Greenfield, including more than 480 teams, participated in the Rays of Hope Walk raising $900,000 the largest ever total in the Walk's 16-year history. Steve LeFebvre, this year's new Rays of Hope chair, said although two months may seem far off, it's important that captains, walkers and this year's new runners leave themselves enough time to gather their friends and family to form a team, and to begin raising funds for the walk and run right now. "Our goal this year is to top the $1 million mark and I believe we can do it with the help of many longtime walkers and others who will be joining our efforts for the first time this year in both Springfield and Greenfield," LeFebvre said. LeFebvre, the first man to chair the Rays of Hope, began participating as a walker to honor his friend's wife after she lost her battle with breast cancer. Soon after he was asked by Rays of Hope officials to join their steering committee, and for the past 12 years has helped to organize the yearly event. "As the first man to chair the walk, I hope to inspire more men to get involved by supporting their loved ones or friends by joining a team or even starting their own," LeFebvre said. "You can really make a difference, and you'll be glad you did." All monies raised through the Rays of Hope remain local and are administered by the Baystate Health Foundation. Over the years, funds have supported programs and services for breast cancer patients and survivors, breast health education, and the purchase of state-of-the art equipment at Baystate Regional Cancer Program's Comprehensive Breast Center, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, and various community projects throughout Western Massachusetts. Rays of Hope also funds several research projects each year at the Comprehensive Breast Center and at the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute, a collaboration between Baystate Medical Center and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Participants in the Run Toward the Cure 8K will hit the pavement at 10:25 a.m. in Springfield, leading the way for walkers who will step off for a two- or five-mile journey at 10:30 a.m. through Forest Park. Springfield's events begin with registration at 9 a.m. at Temple Beth El on Dickinson Street. The Greenfield Walk begins at noon preceded by registration at Energy Park on Miles Street at 10:30 a.m. Walkers can choose from either a two- or three-mile route. Participants can register for the walk online at baystatehealth.org/raysofhope, where they can also create their own Web page to fundraise online. Those who want to support the Rays of Hope, but are unable to walk due to other commitments, can participate in the 10,000 Steps Toward a Cure program. Participants receive a pedometer to keep track of their steps throughout the month of October and raise donations similar to other walkers. Rays of Hope, the most successful fund raising walk in Western Massachusetts for breast cancer, was founded in 1994 by Lucy Giuggio Carvalho and has raised $8.3 million to date. Under the medical direction of Dr. Grace Makari-Judson, the Comprehensive Breast Center in Springfield offers routine mammography services, as well as diagnostic mammography and core biopsy, diagnostic evaluations, multidisciplinary consultation, high risk screening, education and outreach services and support services. For more information about this year's Rays of Hope Walk, which will take place rain or shine, call 794-8001 or visit baystatehealth.org/raysofhope.

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