Training for the big one

Walkers get in practice miles before annual TBBCF marathon fundraiser in October


On one of the first cool Saturday mornings in August, a group of men and women met at Mystic River Park to train for the annual Walk Across Southeastern Connecticut fundraiser for the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation.

Melanie Kolek of East Haddam was among the early morning walkers, ready to walk two loops around Mystic in a 14- to-16-mile training walk in preparation for the Oct. 5 marathon. It will be her first, but she said she’s ready. She plans to partially run and walk the route.

“We’re working on fundraising and making a difference,” said the seven-year breast cancer survivor. Diagnosed at age 33, and now 40, Kolek said she is strong and ready to participate.

It’s the Brodeur Foundation’s commitment to give 100 percent of donations to breast cancer research that motivates her. She’s hoping to raise $1,000 in donations.

“All the proceeds go to research, and people appreciate that,” she said.

She was joined just before 7 a.m. by about 30 others who have committed to raising thousands of dollars to participate in the 14th annual marathon walk from Old Saybrook to Waterford. Every year, over 300 people walk in a full, half or quarter marathon, raising more than $300,000 for cancer research. This year there is also a new 5K family-friendly walk around the grounds of Camp Harkness in Waterford. To date, the foundation has distributed $4.4 million in research grants to 44 PhD, MD/PhD and MD research scientists who are looking for the cause, a cure and better treatments for breast cancer.

Denise Nott, John Felty and Lisa Ellis also were among the early risers ready to take on a 16-mile stroll.

“This is one of the most important things we can do,” said Felty, whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1960s and died about eight years ago. He’s also seen other types of cancers in his family. The fact that the foundation gives 100 percent of its fundraising dollars to research is what’s impressive, he said.

“Not many organizations do that,” he said. Felty also completed a marathon last year.

Anne Rochette, a volunteer who organizes multiple training walks in preparation for the annual fundraiser, signed in walkers and tried to gather them for a group picture. Many just wanted to start walking.

“It’s like herding cats,” she laughed.

Rochette is in charge of making sure the walkers’ needs are met. She stations other volunteers along the route and makes sure the support cars are packed with water, granola bars, raisins, pretzels and her signature peanut butter sandwiches, which she makes every year.

“I love these days. I have the best job. You throw a peanut butter sandwich at them and they think they have filet mignon. They love these peanut butter sandwiches,” she said, adding that the walkers are the ones doing the real job.

“It’s a great, great group of people,” she said. “I have the greatest job in the world, but they’re out there raising money. I’m just happy to help.”

The next training walks are scheduled for Sept. 8, 2019, in Old Saybrook and Sept. 21, 2019, in Mystic

The walker guide on details the training program and lists the walks, times, route directions and driving instructions to Mystic and Old Saybrook meeting sites. Click here for the walker guide.

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