SPRINGFIELD – Once again this October, as the nation observes Breast Cancer Awareness Month, thousands of walkers, as well as runners, will be hitting the pavement on Oct. 28 to support breast health in Western Massachusetts as part of the 19th annual Rays of Hope – A Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer and its accompanying third annual Run Toward the Cure 8K.
This year's annual walk events, presented by Health New England, are set for Springfield and Greenfield, while the run only takes place in Springfield. Last year, some 21,000 combined walkers and runners from Springfield and Greenfield, including more than 600 teams, participated in the Rays of Hope.
Since 1994, Rays of Hope has raised $10.25 million, all of which has remained in our local communities, on behalf of patients and their families affected by breast cancer.
As in past years, the Springfield walk and run begin at Temple Beth El on Dickinson Street where registration is set for 9 a.m. The Walk in Greenfield begins at Energy Park on Miles Street with registration at 10 a.m. The Springfield Walk steps off at 10:30 a.m., preceded at 10:15 a.m. by the run, followed later at noon in Greenfield.
Walkers in Springfield 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.
In Greenfield, participants can select a two- or three-mile route, both of which travel up Main Street before taking different directions. The three-mile route is a little more challenging, with both routes winding through Greenfield neighborhoods, past Baystate Franklin Medical Center, then back to Energy Park.
Large tents, pink balloons, music, colorful flags and a festive, hopeful atmosphere welcome all participants in both Springfield and Greenfield. Local businesses and services will offer information and giveaways in the Exhibitor Tent. The Rays of Hope Store will be selling sweatshirts, quilted vests, eco-friendly shopping bags, aprons, 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 in Springfield, sponsored by The Walking Company, and in Greenfield, will welcome breast cancer survivors with special treats followed by the 2012 survivors' photo at 10 a.m. in Springfield and 11:30 a.m. in Greenfield.
The third annual Run Toward the Cure 8K continues this year with the help of Fast Feet in West Springfield and Westfield. While the event 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.
Anna Symington, a breast cancer survivor from South Hadley, who has been involved in the Rays of Hope for the past 10 years as both a walker and exhibitor selling handmade creations with proceeds benefiting Rays of Hope, is serving as the 2012-2013 event chair.
"I believe education is the most powerful tool an individual can have in meeting this disease head on. I'm looking forward to advocating for and working with the dedicated and impassioned Rays of Hope staff and volunteers in building upon our resources in Western Massachusetts," Symington said.
All monies raised through the Rays of Hope remain local and are administered by the Baystate Health Foundation. Over the years, funds have supported the Rays of Hope Center for Breast Cancer Research, as well as treatment, breast health outreach and education, and the purchase of state-of-the art equipment through the Baystate Health Breast Network, including Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, and various community projects throughout Western Massachusetts.
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, while raising donations similar to other walkers.
Rays of Hope, the most successful fundraising walk in western Massachusetts for breast cancer, was founded in 1994 by Lucy Giuggio Carvalho.
For the Springfield Walk, free parking with shuttle service is available at locations near Temple Beth El, including in East Longmeadow at American Saw, East Longmeadow High School, as well as in Longmeadow at Blueberry Hill School and at Longmeadow High School, and at other locations found on the Rays of Hope website. 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.
In Greenfield, free parking is available in the public lots behind Green Fields Market, on Chapman Street behind Wilson's Department Store, behind the Franklin County Court House, and in the Freedom Credit Union parking lot. Walkers are asked not to park in the Wilson's Department Store lot for the benefit of its customers. There is no shuttle service, however, all lots are within walking distance of Energy Park.
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.
No pets, other than service dogs, are allowed at either the Springfield or Greenfield locations for the safety of both the pets and participating walkers and runners.
This year's Rays of Hope major sponsors are Health New England, Gale Toyota, Balise, Chicopee Savings Charitable Foundation, Doctor's Express, Kinsley Power Systems, The Pink Petal, and Radiology & Imaging. A listing of all sponsors can be found on the Rays of Hope website.
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 its website located at www.baystatehealth.org/raysofhope.