Weather no deterrent for TBBCF walking marathon

Walkers raise thousands at 17th annual fundraiser


For the past 17 years, rain or shine, supporters of the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation have turned up on the first Saturday in October to walk a marathon, or part of one, to raise money for breast cancer research.

And Oct. 1, 2022, was no different.

Opening ceremonies keynote speaker, Melanie Brodeur
Opening ceremonies keynote speaker, Melanie Brodeur

Despite a pounding downpour in Old Saybrook at the start of the Walk for a Cure, about 150 participants crossed the finish line at Camp Harkness in Waterford. Many others, because of the rainy forecast, opted to complete their walks virtually on another day. More than 330 people signed up for the annual event.

“We launched the day with the uplifting words of Melanie Brodeur who highlighted the walk’s growth over the past 17 years now representing 15 states and even Canada,” 2022 Walk Chair Stacy Tattar said after the event. “The walk route was filled with rain but with happy individuals giving their all. The day wrapped up with stories of survival and patient advocacy from Claudia Marks and Dr. Sanft reminding us that we need to keep going with our fundraising efforts and do it all again on October 7, 2023.”

Organizers hope to raise $350,000 from the event by the end of the year. So far, more than $277,000 has been collected. All the money will go straight to research grants for scientists and clinicians searching for a cure for breast cancer and better treatments for those already diagnosed. Before the Oct. 1 walk, the foundation had raised more than $5.5 million and awarded 55 research grants.

The skies remained cloudy on walk day, but the rain eased to a mist as walkers made their way along the shoreline, crossing bridges and stopping at pit stops for drinks and snacks. Cars beeped encouragement, traffic volunteers assisted at road crossings, local police departments held vehicles at bay, and volunteer cyclists rode their bikes up and down the route offering assistance when needed. They passed picturesque marshes and wooded lots, manicured lawns bursting with fall asters and roses, and stonewalls covered with moss.

And finally, after making their way down a tree-lined path through Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, past a bench dedicated to the late Norma Logan who started the foundation, walkers headed for a pink and white balloon archway at Camp Harkness, where supporters waited with cheers and hugs.

Donna Yother, a former TBBCF board member, walked with her daughter Debbie, who is a current board member. Both were hosting teams in honor of someone fighting breast cancer. They raised more than $12,000 and were still counting donations.

Donna Yother, who has participated in the walk for the past 16 years, led the “Barb’s Butterflies” team in honor of her neighbor. They dressed in black T-shirts with the inspirational “Good vibes only” printed in bright blue on the back. Debbie Yother pulled together the “Becky’s Besties” team to honor a friend with stage 4 breast cancer. Her friend was in Aruba for a vacation at the time of the walk, but that didn’t deter the team.

“We’ve been Facetiming her and sending pictures,” she said. “She wishes she was here, but we’re glad she got to go somewhere warm.”

The bike crew covered many miles in support of walkers, much of the time in the rain
The bike crew covered many miles in support of walkers, much of the time in the rain

More than 100 volunteers helped make the walk a success, including those who set up 11 pit stops along the route and handed out drinks, snacks and encouragement. Those at the end of the walk ladled soup and chowder, and offered sandwiches, chips and cookies. Others set up and took down staging for opening and closing ceremonies.

Penny Lane Pub in Old Saybrook donated 10 gallons of butternut squash soup and Flanders Fish Market in East Lyme once again served up hot clam chowder. Chips were donated by Deep River Chips, and water and Gatorade were provided by CVS in Groton, Pepsi Co. and Mohegan Sun.

Anna Gibbons, a personal trainer at the Mystic YMCA, rolled out yoga mats under a tent to help walkers stretch their muscles.

“I am honored to be doing this” she said, adding that she was helping walkers relax and slowly decompress. “It’s nice to see everyone taking care of their bodies”

She said she’s been inspired by the walkers who admitted walking in rainy conditions was tough. But then she said they told her it was nothing compared to what people diagnosed with breast cancer are doing every day, fighting for their lives. She hopes to participate in the walk again next year.

Pictured left to right: Tara Sanft, MD, Sandy Maniscalco and Claudia Marks
Pictured left to right: Tara Sanft, MD, Sandy Maniscalco and Claudia Marks

Closing ceremonies included a message from Claudia Marks, the 2022 honorary walk chair, about the importance of advocating for yourself after a breast cancer diagnosis. She urged patients to ask questions, demand answers, seek out information and get a second opinion.

Jane Guay signing Fight Song to honor all survivors
Jane Guay signing Fight Song to honor all survivors

“Get your needs met,” said the three-time cancer survivor. “It will give you a level of control over your life.”

Doctor Tara Sanft, a Yale Medicine medical oncologist and director of the Survivorship Program at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital, praised the foundation, the volunteers and the walkers for their commitment to raising money for research. “You are all changing the world,” she said.

She encouraged patients to trust their instincts when something doesn’t feel right; to have compassion for themselves and the medical team that is taking care of them; and remember to keep connected to doctors, nurses, staff and family during treatment.

Pictured left to right are TBBCF board members John LaMattina, PhD, Tricia Cunningham and Patti Burmahl
Pictured left to right are TBBCF board members John LaMattina, PhD, Tricia Cunningham and Patti Burmahl

John LaMattina, a founding member of the Brodeur Foundation, said during closing ceremonies that he looks forward to the walk which has become like a reunion for him, where he connects with those who helped start the foundation 17 years ago and visits with new friends who continue to support the foundation’s mission of funding breast cancer research.

“Let’s keep up the momentum and find a way to put us out of business,” LaMattina said.

To close the daylong event, as is the tradition, breast cancer survivors and their families were presented with pink carnations as Jane Guay sang “Fight Song” in honor of all survivors.

Walkers have until the end of the year to collect donations.

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