Walk this way with TBBCF

Training walk for TBBCF October fundraiser brings people together


It’s 7 a.m. at Cottrell Park in Mystic and the sun is trying to burn through the early morning haze over the Mystic River. The temperature is mild but the humidity is high. The 20 men and women who have gathered in the park for a 16-mile training walk to prepare for the Oct. 6 Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation Walk Across Southeastern Connecticut are not phased.

In fact, they are quite animated at they gather for a group picture and walker training organizer Anne Rochette shouts good natured instructions: If there are no sidewalks walk facing traffic. Walk in a single file. Pay attention to what you’re doing. Ellen Swercewski, another longtime TBBCF volunteer, hands out maps and takes the group picture.

As the walkers make their way through downtown Mystic, past Mystic Seaport, through Old Mystic and down River Road back to downtown, they split into smaller groups, some chatting, some enjoying the early morning views of the Mystic River and some with their heads down, concentrating on getting through the miles. The reason they walk is never far from their minds.

While all the men and women on this training walk have either battled breast cancer themselves or know someone who has, for Mary Simpson it’s even more personal. She grew up with Terri Brodeur, the non-profit’s namesake who died in 2005. Brodeur left behind three children and a fighting spirit that rallied her friends to create TBBCF, where 100 percent of gross fundraising dollars go to grants for breast cancer research. TBBCF has raised more than $4 million since 2006, which has gone directly to doctors and researchers trying to find a cure.

“I just think about Terri and how that could easily have been me,” said Simpson, who was raised with Terri Brodeur near Pleasure Beach in Waterford. “I do this to honor my friend.”

Nga Do, who works at Pfizer Inc. and was part of a team several years ago that developed a drug to treat breast cancer, and two friends are the first out of downtown Mystic and they walk at a fast clip. They have a lot to do on this Saturday but they walk because it’s important to them to raise money for TBBCF. Do has participated in the marathon walk for five or six times, organizing about 30 coworkers to join her team that first year.

“I feel like it’s such a good cause,” said her friend Shelly Li, who also works at Pfizer. She loves that so much money goes into research. Although last year she had a conflict and could not walk, this year she hopes to complete the Oct. 6 marathon.

“So many people are touched by cancer,” she said, adding she is walking, in part, to honor a former classmate who died of breast cancer 18 years ago.

Organizers have set up pit stops along the way. Rochette, Swercewski and Rayna Dakin have stuffed the trunks of their cars with peanut butter sandwiches, drinks, orange slices, bananas and chocolates. Everyone is connected by cell phones to make sure no one takes a wrong turn.

Sandy Maniscalco also rallies for the walk, although she admits she’s been up for hours and already has had her coffee. Training for the 26.2-mile walking marathon is important, she said. Plus, there are support cars to help if there are any problems and water and snacks available every few miles.

At the first “comfort stop” a few miles into the walk, Maniscalco, who cofounded TBBCF with her friend Norma Logan, who died from breast cancer shortly after TBBCF was established, fills her water bottle with orange Gatorade but declines anything else.

“Let’s go,” she says to her co-walkers. “Let’s do this.”

Walkers can sign up for the 13th annual Walk Across Southeastern Connecticut, from Old Saybrook to Waterford, at www.tbbcf.org. The event includes a full marathon of 26.2 miles, or shorter walks of a half-marathon, 13.2 miles, and a quarter-marathon, 6.55 miles. For more information, to register or to donate, go to www.tbbcf.org.


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