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Hundreds turn out for breast cancer walk in persistent rain

The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk was

The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk was on the East End Sunday. Credit: John Roca

Breast cancer fighters and their supporters aided by ponchos and umbrellas marched in persistent rain in Northampton Sunday for the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.

The noncompetitive 5K at the Suffolk County Community College Eastern Campus typically attracts about 4,000 people, organizers said, but nearly 1,000 turned out and raised $140,000 despite the dreary forecast. There is no fee to participate, but the organization encourages walkers to make a gift.

The event is a sister march to the American Cancer Society’s annual walk at Jones Beach in Wantagh, the largest of its kind in the country. That walk attracted about 65,000 people on Oct. 20 and raised about $2.6 million for cancer research, said Katie Goepfrich, senior manager of community development for the American Cancer Society and one of the event’s organizers. 

The organization began hosting a Suffolk County breast cancer awareness month event seven years ago to better accommodate survivors and supporters traveling from the East End.

“Jones Beach is such a robust event so many Long Islanders love to go and be a part of that experience, but we noticed a lot of our participants were coming from the Hamptons, Riverhead and the North Fork,” Goepfrich said. “Long Island is from Montauk to the Queens border and we wanted to make sure anyone who wanted to could be a part of this.”

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2019, more than 268,600 women and 2,670 men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer. More than 41,760 will die from the disease this year.

Alysse Crescenzo, 38, of Huntington, found a lump in her breast in May and knowing that she is a carrier of a mutated BRCA gene immediately sought treatment. She stressed the need for breast self-exams and knows the devastation the disease can bring — all three of her sisters are also carriers of the mutated gene and one sister died of ovarian cancer in 2015.

“I’m lucky that I found it when I did. You got to check yourself,” Crescenzo said with her husband, three young daughters and her daughters’ Brownie troop by her side. She came out in the rain “to show that it happens to anyone and not to be ashamed about it.”

Many proudly wore pink, the color of breast cancer awareness, including bright gloves given out by PSEG Long Island, one of the many sponsors, that came in handy for the cold wet weather. Helene David, 55, a special education teacher with BOCES, wore a hot pink shirt under a matching shawl in part to honor her mother-in-law Geraldine, who died of breast cancer in the 1970s.

“My mother-in-law passed away as well as other friends,” she said. “Cancer itself has affected our life. We just try to offer support.”

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