Whitestone group planning breast cancer walk

By Madina Toure

After Donna Caruso’s mother died of breast cancer at the age of 53 after discovering her cancer late, Caruso was inspired to start a walk for women.

Caruso, the secretary for We Love Whitestone, a non-profit civic association, said her mother never got a mammogram because it was hard for her, given that she had polio and was in a wheelchair.

But Caruso said women also often forego screenings and treatment because of a lack of insurance or money. That inspired her to start a committee that would host a Breast Cancer Awareness Walk & Fund- raiser to raise money for women’s medical coverage.

“She never got a mammography and by the time she found the lump, it was just entirely too late,” Caruso said about her miother. “It had spread all over. So what I wanted to do was instead of walking for research, I wanted to do a walk for women.”

The committee, whose other members are George Mirtsopoulos and Donna Vaccar, is planning to host the event in Little Bay Park next summer. Donations would go to the Tisch Cancer Institute’s Dubin Breast Center at the Mount Sinai Health System, which offers innovative approaches for breast health and cancer treatment to all patients regardless of their ability to pay. The goal is to raise at least $5,000, according to Mirtsopoulos. The event was initially scheduled to take place Oct. 17, but the committee was not able to get sufficient participation given the timing.

“We’re going to get some volunteers together at our next town hall meeting and start planning it out now,” Mirtsopoulos said. “We started a little later than we should have this year. That’s why everything didn’t work out now.”

The event will be co-sponsored by the 109th Precinct Community Council, the Bay Terrace Community Alliance and the Bayside Historical Society.

Registration will cost $35 per participant and the first 250 participants will receive a free T-shirt mentioning the event and bearing the We Love Whitestone name.

Caruso said that after her experience with her mother, who may have had cancer for at least seven years before she discovered it, she gets a mammogram and a sonogram every year.

“I really do want to make sure that women are diligent and proactive and not scared,” Caruso said. “It’s better to be informed and find out and be treated than for people to be in denial and there’s no return.”

Mirtsopoulos said the ultimate goal of the event is to raise awareness about breast cancer as other organizations have done but on a more local level.

“It’s really community-based,” he said. “We’re not like all these other big organizations that do this breast cancer stuff. We’re just keeping it within the community.”

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.