By Mark Hallum
The American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Cancer walk Sunday in Flushing Meadows Corona Park saw a turnout which rivaled last year’s and raised awareness and funds for breast cancer research, education, early detection efforts and patient service programs. The disease is the most frequently diagnosed form of cancer among women and is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women.
Some 127,000 New Yorkers showed up at walks citywide and raised over $5 million for the cause. Queens played its part with 12,000 walkers and $661,000 raised on the three-mile march through the park.
At the Survivors Tent, returning men and women who have lived through breast cancer registered for the walk and some reunited with Survivor Tent Lead Fran Holzman. Holzman said the tent is not only a place to get involved, but it is also where those who have been struck with the illness go to celebrate life when they return to the walk.
Every year there are more survivors, she said. However, it is not uncommon for Holzman to reach out to volunteers from previous years and learn that they are no longer alive.
Robin Reeman is a 23-year survivor and Relay for Life of Bayside member who has been participating in the walk since it started on Queens Boulevard in 1993. Going through the motions of a normal life is the most important part of getting through the illness, she said.
Fran Hicks, an 18-year cancer survivor, works with the American Cancer Society offering emotional support to patients newly diagnosed.
“When they find out that I’m a survivor, their faces light up because they know that I can relate, and it’s wonderful,” Hicks said. “When I talk to them, it builds me up again.”
Bob Chu, a breast and prostate cancer survivor since 2012, stressed the importance of early detection through prostate-specific antigen testing and general evaluations. Like many of the walkers, cancer has affected other members of his family; His sister succumbed to breast cancer in 1980, he said.
Since 1993, nearly 12 million supporters have helped to raise $750 million nationwide for the cause.
Among the sponsors at Sunday’s walk were St. John’s University, New York-Presbyterian/Queens, the United Federation of Teachers, NYC Health and Hospitals, and Medisys.
The city Department of Corrections said it fielded the second-highest fund-raising team in the walk. With a large number of female employees, DOC raised over $19,000 and had about 200 volunteers from its staff participating.
“This is a very important event for DOC. Forty-four percent of our uniformed staff is female and that includes much of the senior leadership. Many of the women who are marching today are going through treatment, or are breast cancer survivors,” DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte said. “We will continue to raise awareness about breast cancer. DOC Team organizers have also arranged to have a mobile health van at Rikers Island and at DOC Headquarters to provide mammograms to DOC staff this fall.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall