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Jones Beach walkers raise funds for breast cancer research

Members of Team Linda's Angels gather along with

Members of Team Linda's Angels gather along with tens of thousands of breast cancer survivors, caregivers and volunteers before the start of a 5k walk at Jones Beach in Wantagh on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016. Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

Streams of pink-clad walkers took over the boardwalk at Jones Beach on Sunday for the 23rd Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.

Breast cancer survivors, friends and family all came out to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research, walking a 5-mile loop wearing fluorescent pink tutus, leis and other festive gear.

The event drew 65,000 walkers from all over Long Island and beyond who raised nearly $2.5 million. Tony Ruggieri traveled from Pennsylvania to support his wife, Doreen, whose breast cancer has been in remission for a decade. Ruggieri said the event’s convivial atmosphere was “just fantastic.”

“It’s amazing that people come out to do this,” Tony Ruggieri added.

“Friends support friends, family supports family, we’re all in this together,” said Commack resident Pat Pohemer. “It feels like you’re doing something positive.”

After walking the boardwalk, participants browsed a cluster of sponsor tents and watched lively dance performances. Walkers who have battled breast cancer proudly pinned pink ribbons to a board and posed triumphantly in front of the Survivors tent.

Long Beach resident Maryann Conradis, a 20-year survivor of breast cancer, said attending the walk was an emotional experience every year.

“Going to the survivor’s tent, you get cheers. . . . I get teary-eyed,” Conradis, 64, said. “To be able to raise money to help our children and their children. . . . It’s a very good feeling.”

Most attendees walked in teams, with some groups numbering several hundred people. Clocking in at about 700 walkers, PSEG Long Island had the largest team, which raised more than $50,000 this year, said George Coburn, manager of community outreach at PSEG.

The event is the largest breast cancer walk in the nation, and more than 1,400 teams participated in this year’s walk, said Katie Goepfrich, a community events planner at the American Cancer Society.

Pat Bishop-Kelly, a member of the American Cancer Society’s Board of Advisors, said the walk united people around a single word: hope.

“No one has to feel they are alone. It’s a testament to the spirit of cancer survivors, their families and friends,” Bishop-Kelly said.

Breast cancer is among the most common cancers diagnosed in women, and a woman living in the United States has a 1 in 8 chance of being diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2015, more than 200,000 new cases were diagnosed, and about 40,000 women were expected to die of breast cancer.

Brooklyn residents Pamela Hector and Evette Samuels, who were supported by about 40 members of Queens-based Apostolic Church of God 7th Day, said they felt blessed to have survived breast cancer.

“We are the survivors, we are the ones left alive to tell the story,” Samuels, 47, said.

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