Rain and chilly winds couldn’t keep Fordham alumni, friends and family from walking in Central Park on Sunday, Oct. 18, as part of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, the American Cancer Society’s annual event to raise money and awareness to fight the disease.
(Clockwise from the top) Annie Brens and her sister, Esmirna Brens (FCLS '09), Francys Cocco (FCRH '07), Jennyfere Thomas (FCLC '05) and Caitlin Ahern (FCRH '08) make it to the fourth mile of the Central Park walk. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Ahern
“I wouldn’t normally go for a five-mile walk in this weather,” said Sara Fox, FCRH ’01, a member of Fordham’s Young Alumni Committee, “but we had a lot of fun and it was a great group of people.”
The 30 teammates kicked off the morning with a breakfast of coffee, muffins and fruit at the University’s alumni relations office, at 888 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan before donning ponchos and rain boots to brave the elements. At the 72nd Street Bandshell in Central Park, they joined thousands of other Making Strides walkers for the five-mile loop around the park.
“Though it was a serious subject and the weather was discouraging,” said Fox, “we kept the spirit alive.”
The Central Park team was one of eight Fordham teams—from alumni chapters in South Florida, Boston, Long Island, Hudson Valley, Northern New Jersey, Chicago and Atlanta— to take part in the hundreds of Making Strides events throughout the country during October, National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Sponsored by the Office of Alumni Relations for the fifth consecutive year, Fordham’s Making Strides teams collected donations, which will support the American Cancer Society’s research, prevention, early detection and support programs for people battling the disease. The year’s teams raised a total of $9,807, with many bringing in more money the morning of the walks, even surpassing their goals. The Central Park team, for example, set a fundraising goal of $4,000 this year and raised $6,233 by the end of the walk.
Mary Carmen Coll (left) with Mary Walsh, TMC '69, dons a Making Strides survivor sash at the Paramus walk. Photo courtesy of Tricia Carletta
For the past two years, Caitlin Ahern, FCRH ’08, alumni relations officer and captain of the Central Park team, has rallied alumni support. “Their exponentially growing gift to the American Cancer Society,” she said, “is just one example of their fierce commitment and incredible enthusiasm for this cause.”
In rainy Paramus, N.J., at Northern New Jersey’s walk, Mary Walsh, TMC ’69, was one of eight people who participated in the walk. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, she found some refuge in the American Cancer Society, which provided her with literature, wigs and scarves when she was undergoing treatment for the disease. “I decided that every year I would do the walk,” she said.
Walsh met Ulla Gonzalez, FCRH ’96, and her mother, Mary Carmen Coll, who is currently in treatment for breast cancer. “Mary and I bonded quickly," Walsh said. “Unless you’ve been through this, you just don’t know, and to see so many cancer survivors there, made the day glorious.”
For Coll, the walk and Walsh’s support were encouraging. “Mary understood what I was feeling,” she said. “ If you have a little bit of hope; it’s plenty. Next year I will be a survivor.”
Gonzalez agreed that the walk was the best medicine for her mother.
Marthe Druska, FCRH '02, and Frantz Osse, FCRH '73, prepare for the sunny walk along Lake Michigan. Photo courtesy of Marthe Druska
“At the end of the walk when Mary took her survivor sash and put it on my mom, we were all brought to tears,” said Gonzalez. “That is what these walks are about. Showing support not only through fundraising, but by sharing stories.”
Tricia Carletta, FCRH ’93, leader of the Northern New Jersey team, was touched by the special camaraderie among Walsh, other survivors and those still fighting the disease. “You make the connection,” she said. “Fordham has always instilled in us a sense of community activism and charity.”
In Chicago, the weather was different—a sunny, crisp autumn day—but the high spirits were the same. Led by Marthe Druska, FCRH ’02, 25 Fordham graduates and friends walked along Lake Michigan. Last year, only five people participated. The boost in team size was due in large part to Frantz Osse, FCRH ’73, who brought 18 friends and family members to support him in the walk. “He really set the tone for a great day,” Druska said of Osse, who is undergoing treatment for male breast cancer.
“The dedication of people to get up and give of themselves, when it was 33 degrees outside,” Osse said. “It made a difference.”
—Rachel Buttner is the assistant editor of FORDHAM magazine