NEW BRITAIN - The CT Breast Health initiative honored survivors of breast cancer, remembered those lost to the disease and vowed to keep fighting for a cure at their 15th Annual “Race in the Park” Saturday in Walnut Hill Park.
Survivors and their supporters gathered dressed in pink at the park. Others bore on their backs the names of those whose lives had been lost to the disease - a reminder of why they were there to run, volunteer and raise money for research.
Joanne Bozadjian, volunteer coordinator, said she has been involved since the race’s inception. Her sister in law succumbed to breast cancer in 1996 and now she and her two daughters all volunteer.
“This event is very special to my heart,” said Bozadjian. “We’re looking for a cure and I’m hoping that it will come in my lifetime. Thousands of people come out to support the Race in the Park and we get around 400 volunteers. We have awarded $3.6 million to fund breast cancer research and education and everything we raise stays here in Connecticut.”
Joyce Bray, president and founder of CT BHI, said that she is running in memory of her mother Dorothy, a 32 year survivor who died in 1992.
“She was diagnosed back in the ‘dark age’ of breast cancer, when people didn’t talk about it,” said Bray. “I’m glad that we’ve been able to bring survivors together and get people talking about it as we fight for a cure.”
Mayghan Caran, one of the volunteers, said that she supports the Race in the Park in honor of her aunt who was diagnosed in 2014 and her cousin Charlene, who was diagnosed the same year and has since died at only 35 years old.
Fran Kulsea and Anne Clark have been coming to the Race in the Park together since its inception. They have been doing so in honor of their friend Clare, who died from breast cancer and Fran’s mother who is a 98-year-old survivor.
Race Chair Sandi Souza said that she has been walking for the last 15 years and became involved in the CT BHI two years ago. She did so in memory of her mother in law. Her co-chair, Susanne Bobrowiecki, is herself a survivor who was diagnosed three years ago.
“It’s great to see the number of women wearing hats with pink ribbons coming back year after year and showing that they are still here and still fighting,” said Bobrowiecki.
Dr. Camelia Lawrence, director of breast surgery for Hartford HealthCare’s Central Region, came to the event wearing a pink cowboy hat. She said that she lost a close friend to breast cancer and that, for her, this cause is personal. She said that she hopes to encourage women to get examined to help catch breast cancer early.
“Early detection is hugely important until we find a cure,” she said. “Some women still don’t get their annual mammograms and what they might not realize is that some people who develop breast cancer can’t feel it right away.”
Just prior to the race, a Survivor’s Breakfast was held in which “King Arthurs Court,” a Hartford barber shop quartet went from table to table singing to survivors.
Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, Bray and Lawrence then took turns addressing the guests.
“Today, for me, like I’m sure for so many of you, is my Mother’s Day,” said Bray. “It’s when our family comes together like so many families and friends from all over Connecticut and 20 other states. I know that, for all of the people that are here in the flesh, there are thousands more names on their backs that are here in spirit.”
Wyman said that every year she comes to the Race in the Park it gets “better and better” because she sees more and more survivors. She encouraged 20 year, 10 year, 5 year and 1 year cancer survivors to stand and be applauded, as well as those who were “one day survivors.”
Lawrence praised the CT BHI for how much it has raised for cancer research and explained how Hartford HealthCare’s center on the New Britain and Plainville line offered services such as same-day consultations and biopsies under one roof.
“We are able to do what we do because of the support of people like you,” she said. “We hope that one day we will not need events like this because breast cancer will be cured. Until then, no woman should have to face breast cancer alone. So, we will rally here together to support and uplift everyone and hope for a brighter tomorrow without breast cancer.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.