October 27, 2003

600 Attend Breast Cancer Walkathon

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When most people think of fall colors, they think of autumn leaves — yellow, orange, red and brown. But on Saturday afternoon, the main color downtown was pink. This weekend marked the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance’s 10th annual walkathon. Hundreds of people — men, women and children alike — turned out to show their support for the cause of breast cancer awareness and research.

By around noon on the Ithaca Commons, approximately 100 people had already gathered. However, according to Peggy McKee, IBCA’s outreach and events coordinator, there were somewhere between 600 and 700 participants by the time the walk actually began.

Good Turnout

“It was a good turnout. We were happy with it,” McKee said.

Participants first stopped at the registration table, where donations to the IBCA could be made. Pins and pink ribbons were available to those who wished to show their support.

IBCA began as a support group in an area where little support was offered. “[At the time,] there had been no support services available in Ithaca. After a couple of years [the other founders and I] all decided that we wanted to do something for the community to change the face of breast cancer in the area,” said Anne McLaughlin, one of the original nine founders of IBCA. “We decided we were just going to do some sort of support group and it mushroomed into this huge organization.”

IBCA raises money through events such as the Plants for Life sale, held in Bartels Hall last month, and through the Power Play for Prevention, supported by the Cornell hockey team and the Tompkins Trust Company. The walkathon, however, is the group’s biggest fundraiser.

“We’ve had a lot of involvement from Cornell, Ithaca College, Ithaca High School and all the schools and the community. It’s been a very big event,” McLaughlin added.

She also explained that IBCA is a “local, grassroots organization” that doesn’t have an affiliation with any national group. Therefore, all of the money they raise stays in the Ithaca area and “goes toward our support services which are all free and available to anybody in the larger Ithaca community,” McLaughlin said.

These services include, among other things, a 24/7 Helpline, support groups, community education and a peer information network. According to McKee, IBCA also offers “Breast Cancer 101,” another unique service. This is a “a two session course about breast cancer for people that have just been diagnosed,” McKee said.

McLaughlin seemed very pleased with the progress IBCA had made over the last 10 years. “Ten years ago no one ever barely said the words breast cancer out loud,” she explained. “I mean it’s amazing how far it’s come since then. It’s really been an organization that’s thrived and really helped to educate people and assist them through a very difficult diagnosis.”

Breast cancer survivors at the event were encouraged to wear a pink sash, while those walking in honor of — or in memory of — a loved one could pick up a pink heart to write that person’s name on.

Some of the people present went even further in support of their loved ones. Janet Lanning, a local resident, and nine other members of her family wore signs with a picture of their loved one. “We’re walking in honor of Hellen Lanning,” she said. “We’re [her] sisters, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Many groups turned out to show their support for this event either by walking or volunteering. They included the local United Auto Workers (UAW) 2300 union, several sports teams from Ithaca College, and Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, Pi Delta Psi fraternity and Zeta Phi Beta sorority from Cornell. Members of Alpha Omicron Pi were among the roughly 80 volunteers that helped the event to run smoothly.

“We started helping the IBCA a couple years back especially with this walk and then last year we adopted them as our local philanthropy,” said Lindsey Rosenthal ’05, public relations chair for Alpha Omicron Pi. “IBCA is a great cause. They really provide for a local way to get involved with people … and I think it helps a lot of our sisters as well as the Cornell community to have a link to breast cancer care.”

Alisha Hart ’05, philanthropy chair for Alpha Omicron Pi, agreed, saying that IBCA can “provide a lot of services that aren’t found elsewhere.”

There was also a group of students from the DeWitt Middle School’s National Junior Honor Society who attended the walk. According to their advisor, eighth grade English teacher Robin Rosoff, the group has participated in the IBCA Walkathon for the past three years. When asked if they thought IBCA was a good cause, the response from the kids was an overwhelming “Definitely!” This year, the NJHS raised over $150 in donations for the walkathon.

The walk itself was an hour long and covered roughly two miles. Many of the participants carried signs with slogans like “More $ For Breast Cancer Research” or “1 in 8” referring to the chances of a woman having breast cancer at some point in her life.

“It was really helpful,” said breast cancer survivor Sheryl Edwards of her experience with IBCA. She has been participating in the walk for the past five years. “I went and took out some books from the library and read all about all the procedures that I might have to have which was really helpful and I used the information network and was able to talk to people who had chemotherapy and got a lot of information about that, so it was great.” Today, Edwards volunteers at the IBCA helpline, and is one of the co-teachers of Breast Cancer 101.

The walk ended at the Women’s Community Building on W. Seneca St., where many of the walkers gathered for a rally held in the Martha Van Rensselaer Auditorium. Chris Sanchirico, executive director of IBCA, started off the rally by announcing that the walkathon had raised over $37,000, a fact that was met with much applause from the audience. However, the real highlight of the rally was a new film titled “Because No One Should Face Breast Cancer Alone,” created by Baseema Banoo and her husband Ward Krkoska.

The film — dedicated to Meg Ambry, one of the late founders of IBCA — featured interviews with some of the remaining founders as well as interviews with people who have taken advantage of IBCA’s services.

Following the film, there was a series of speakers including Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.). Hinchey congratulated IBCA on the work that they had accomplished so far, but said that “it is obvious that we need to do a lot more work.”

“We have to keep fighting this issue here on the medical front, and here with the work that IBCA does, but also politically,” Hinchey added. He voiced his disapproval for the war in Iraq, as well as his belief that money budgeted for Iraq could be better spent on things like continued research for breast cancer. He went on to blame the Republican-controlled House and Senate for taking no action on several different bills related to breast cancer.

These include bills such as the “Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act” which would authorize $30 million a year to research links between environmental factors and breast cancer, and the “Breast Cancer Stamp Reauthorization Act” which would allow the U.S. Postal Service to continue selling special stamps to raise money for breast cancer research.

Another speaker at the rally was D. Rob Mackenzie, M.D., president and CEO of Cayuga Medical Center at Ithaca. “What I found as a practitioner was that the kind of support that IBCA provides helped my patients to carry on,” Mackenzie said. He also announced the opening of a brand new Radiation Therapy Center at CMC in Sept. 2004. The center is a $5.6 million project, although $105,000 has already been raised by CMC employees alone. It will be a great asset to local cancer patients as they must currently drive to Binghamton or other neighboring cities to rec
eive this treatment.

Other speakers included Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-NY-125), who discussed legislation that had recently passed in the New York State Assembly, Brian Goodell, president of UAW Local 2300 and the five remaining founders, who each said something about their personal feelings towards and experiences with IBCA.

Archived article by Courtney Potts