Participants in this year’s Jones Beach "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" walk will get a chance to step into new territory as part of the American Cancer Society’s re-imaging of the event to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
The fundraiser, which is in its 27th year and is the largest in the country, usually features up to 65,000 walkers, but because such a massive gathering can’t be held due to COVID-19 concerns, organizers are planning several virtual and in-person activities for participants to raise money for breast cancer research and programs to support breast cancer survivors. The large variety of options range from walking alone and self-documenting the journey to riding in a pink vehicle parade, becoming part of an online picture mosaic and joining a scavenger hunt.
Katie Goepfrich Schafer, senior manager of community development for the American Cancer Society who is based in Hauppauge, says the planners were determined to have the "very important" and popular event, which also honors survivors, move ahead by coming up with some new and fun alternatives to walking en masse. She adds the options give participants opportunities to commemorate breast cancer awareness throughout the month of October instead of on one particular day. In 2019, the walk raised more than $2.65 million.
"The passion that comes out [for the annual walk] is just unimaginable until you’ve experienced it," says Schafer. "Everyone is united for one cause and it knocks down all town or other lines." She notes the new options for this year are designed to accommodate everyone’s comfort level and physical abilities. "This world has definitely pushed us to think differently."
Breast cancer survivor Joan Madarash, 71, has walked in the Jones Beach event since 2004 and for 2020 she decided that she’d participate in her own scaled-down version by walking 2.5 miles around her Smithtown neighborhood on Oct. 4 with about a dozen friends and family members. Her goal was to raise $2,500 but the group raised $2,900.
"We all wore our pink and had so much fun," Maradash says of her Oct. 4 walk. "We came back to our house for a tailgate and socially-distance brunch."
Here’s a sampling of this year’s Making Strides events. The full event list can be found at makingstrideswalk.org/longislandny.
Oct. 1 to Oct. 11
Join the "Pink Forward Step Challenge," which will unite Long Island walkers even if they are apart. With this activity, you can raise money for such efforts as creating a zero-carbon world. Participants are urged to challenge themselves to take either 5,000 or 10,000 steps a day and raise funds along the way. The goal is a total of 10 million pink steps. Sign up at runsignup.com/pinkforward.
Oct. 1 to Oct. 18
Write a personalized message dedicated to or honoring a breast cancer survivor, someone who has the disease or succumbed to it for what is planned as a "sea" of pink pinwheels which will spin along the coastline for the first-ever "Tribute Garden" at Jones Beach to be completed on Oct. 18. Donations of $10 or more will be requested. To donate a tribute pinwheel visit bit.1y/TributeGardenLI.
Decorate the exterior of your vehicle in pink for a "rolling pep rally" to be held from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Jones Beach. You’ll take a "celebratory" drive through Field 5 where there will be creative displays from sponsors. Time slots are mandatory to attend. Reserve your slot and get more information at makingstrideswalk.org/longisland.
Pink out your car for a "Pink Parade" that will make its way down Main Street in Riverhead from 9 to 11 a.m. Reserve a spot at makingstrideswalk.org/EasternLongIsland.
"Pink Your Own Way" and walk wherever you choose in support of breast cancer patients in treatment, survivors or in honor of someone lost to the disease. Sign up to make your steps known, submit donations and volunteer hours for breast cancer awareness and fundraising efforts.
"Pink and Go Seek" is a fun way for small groups to gather while supporting the cause. Using the cityHUNT digital app, teams receive clues created exclusively for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer supporters. Unlike traditional scavenger hunts, teams will search for a list of objects, follow clues to solve problems, take pictures, make videos, and celebrate breast cancer survivors. Wearing masks and social distancing are encouraged as you play.