NEW BRITAIN - It was a celebration of life and remembrance in Walnut Hill Park on Saturday morning when the Connecticut Breast Health Initiative held its 24th annual Race in the Park.
There was overcast but no rain as thousands of people from across the region converged on the park to help raise awareness and money for breast cancer research. The morning was a culmination of months of planning and organizing.
“I hope we raised lots of money for breast cancer research, I hope the survivors feel appreciated and honored and I hope all the families had a great time,” CT BHI President Joyce Bray told The Herald.
The morning began with the annual Survivor Breakfast. Sandra Forde, who said it’s been 13 years since she was re-diagnosed with breast cancer, attends the breakfast every year.
“It’s something that’s in my heart because I’m a survivor,” Forde told The Herald.
Forde was with Women of Bethesda, a group from Bethesda Apostolic Church in New Britain.
“It’s great that the city supports this,” said Robin Hudson, also with the church. “It really is a great cause.”
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Mayor Erin Stewart served as honorary co-chairwomen for this year’s event. Joe Furey, Matt Damon and Rick Buckley shared emcee duties.
“We’re here to celebrate life,” Buckley said to the crowd of hundreds getting ready for the walk that followed the Female and Male 5K.
For Stewart, this is a personal annual event. Stewart’s Aunt, Patricia Badolato, passed away in the 1990s from breast cancer.
“To see how far we have come from the mid 90s to today, to ensuring that treatment is better and options are there is so important to many, many women - and some men - across the nation,” Stewart said to a crowd of participants. “Twenty-four years is a long time to have this event, we hope you all come back next year for the 25th year.”
For the Female and Male 5K run, Joe Ruggiero finished first, Chris Chisholm second and New Britain’s Mario Vazquez third.
The run wasn’t the only thing to do in Walnut Hill Park Saturday. There were raffles and many food and shopping options at the village of tents and trucks. Kids could learn about their favorite big-rig trucks, play games and meet New Britain Bees mascot Sting, among other things.
“It’s one of the most memorable events we have in the city,” Alderman Daniel Salerno said while he watched 5K runners cross the finish line. “There’s no one that’s not touched by this disease in some way, whether they have breast cancer or someone they care about does.”
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.