This year’s annual event will take place on Oct. 23. Last year some 19,000 walkers participated in walks in Springfield and Greenfield, including more than 500 teams, raising $950,000 the largest ever total in the walk’s 17-year history.
“Since 1994, Rays of Hope has raised $9.25 million, all of which has remained in our local communities on behalf of patients and their families affected by breast cancer,” Susan Toner, vice president, Development, Baystate Health, and executive director, Baystate Health Foundation, noted.
As in past years, the walk begins at Temple Beth El on Dickinson Street where registration is set for 9 a.m. The walk steps off at 10:30 a.m.
Walkers can choose from a two- or five-mile route. The shorter route follows the loop around the ball field in Forest Park, then back to Temple Beth El. It is accessible to handicapped participants. The five-mile stroll, with its beautiful fall scenery in and around historic Forest Park, is a little more challenging with some hills.
Large tents, pink balloons, music, colorful flags and a festive, hopeful atmosphere welcome all participants. Local businesses and services will offer information and giveaways in the Exhibitor Tent. The Rays of Hope Store will be selling sweatshirts, fleece vests, zip-up hoodies, scarves, eco-friendly shopping bags and more. There will also be a Food Tent with all kinds of treats to purchase, with sales benefiting Rays of Hope.
Also, the Pink Hope Lounge will welcome breast cancer survivors with special treats followed by the 2011 Survivors’ Photo at 10 a.m.
The second annual Run Toward the Cure 8K will continue this year with the help of Fast Feet in West Springfield and Westfield. Runners will lead the way for the day’s event as they sprint through the route at 10:15 a.m., just 15 minutes before walkers step off. While the Run Toward the Cure 8K is considered a “fun run,” there will be a time clock at the finish line for runners who want to see and record what may hopefully be their “personal best.”
Participants can register for both the Walk and Fun Run online at baystatehealth.org/raysofhope, where they can also create their own personal webpage to assist them in their fundraising efforts.
Steve LeFebvre of Somers, Conn., who for 13 years has helped to organize the event, returns for his second year as chair of the Rays of Hope. He noted that captains, walkers and runners need to leave themselves enough time to gather their friends and family to form a team, and to begin raising funds for the Walk and Fun Run right now.
“I hope that by my example more men will get involved, so that they will be in a position to help others in their lives as I was able to help my sister,” said LeFebvre, whose sister, Diane Tabb of Holyoke, was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.
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. This April, Rays of Hope made a significant contribution to the support of local biomedical research with a $1.5 million donation to establish the Rays of Hope Center for Breast Cancer Research at the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute (PVLSI). The donation is intended to continue locally-based research on a broader scale at PVLSI.
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.
Free parking with shuttle service is available at locations near Temple Beth El, including in East Longmeadow at American Saw, Plastipak, Blue Homes Inc. and at East Longmeadow High School, as well as in Longmeadow at Blueberry Hill School and at Longmeadow High School.
Participants are asked to refrain from parking on the side streets near the Temple in consideration of those who live in the surrounding neighborhoods and to allow easy, safe access for the runners participating in the 8K.
Handicapped parking is available at Temple Beth El and at Energy Park for those with an official handicapped parking permit and/or license plate only.
For more information about this year’s Rays of Hope Walk and 8K Run, which will take place rain or shine, call 794-8001 or visit baystatehealth.org/raysofhope.
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