The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge, to say the least, and for non-profit organizations such as Yorktown-based Support Connection, the hurdles have been trickier than ever.
“When COVID hit, we knew that one thing had to remain constant. We had to continue offering our support services without interruption,” said Katherine Quinn, Support Connection Executive Director. “While we had to work remotely, throughout the pandemic, our Peer Counselors have worked tirelessly to offer support and continue programs such as educational webinars, mediation, yoga. More than ever, people need support as they navigate cancer in the age of the COVID pandemic.”
Since Support Connection does not receive funds from any national cancer organizations, including Relay for Life, Susan G. Komen or Making Strides, it relies heavily on donations raised for its annual Support-A-Walk for Breast and Ovarian Cancer, a celebration normally held the first Sunday in October where thousands gather at FDR State Park in Yorktown.
However, due to the health and safety restrictions of the pandemic, that live event is not possible. Instead, Support-A-Walk is going virtual on Sunday, October 4 with a theme of “Walk With Us, Wherever You Are.”
“For years, we have been helping people nationwide. Now, rather than just making a donation to the Walk, people throughout the country are able to walk in their own communities, regardless of where they live,” Quinn said. “While we will miss gathering thousands at FDR Park, it is encouraging and exciting to see people’s enthusiasm for walking in their own neighborhoods and, most importantly, supporting our mission.”
The financial goal of the Walk, according to Quinn, is $250,000. With its spring fundraising activities hampered by the pandemic, Support Connection is hoping for a major boost from those who have always been behind the Walk.
“The Support-A-Walk has been an important event for us every year, but this year it’s even more important,” Quinn said. “I have great faith in the people who believe in us. Every donation and every dollar counts, so I am counting on our supporters to help us reach our goal of raising $250,000 for the Walk. Anyone who donates can truly say that they are making a difference in the life of someone dealing with breast or ovarian cancer. That is quite powerful.”
Friends Marlena Horton, Arlene Swankie, and Joan Franich have all attended the Walk enthusiastically in past years and decided not to let the pandemic stop them from walking and raising funds.
Calling themselves the “River Walk Bosom Buddies,” the three are planning a “mini-walk” with local friends and family. They’ll start at Lent’s Cove Park in Buchanan and walk along river. Mindful of the need to follow all social distancing and safety guidelines, they are being careful not to plan anything that would require large groups to congregate. In addition to raising funds with a Team online fundraising page, they’ll sell handmade masks for $10 each with all proceeds to Support Connection.
All of the women planning the “mini-walk” have personal reasons for being committed to Support Connection’s mission. Swankie, a Buchanan resident, has been involved since she attended her first Walk in 1999 in honor of a close friend who had breast cancer. Sadly, her friend died before the next Walk, but Swankie has participated every year since in her memory. For years she has volunteered at the event’s “Survivor Welcome Area.” She also serves as a Community Ambassador, sharing Walk info throughout her community, and attends many other Support Connection events. Three years ago, when her niece was diagnosed with breast cancer, Swankie immediately referred her to Support Connection for help.
Franich, a Montrose resident, became involved through her long friendship with Swankie who recruited her to volunteer at the Survivor’s Welcome Area with her. Soon the event took on more personal meaning for Franich. She went through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in 1997, but never considered herself a “survivor,” feeling other women went through more than she did. However, speaking with one of Support Connection’s Peer Counselors at the Walk, Franich learned that anyone who hears the words “you have cancer” is a survivor and deserves recognition and support. From that moment, Franich felt validated and has enjoyed attending Support Connection’s Celebrate Life Day for cancer survivors each year.
Horton, also a Montrose resident, was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2018. She learned of Support Connection through a co-worker in the Croton Harmon School District where she teaches, and relied on Support Connection’s Peer Counselors and support group to help her through treatment and recovery. For last year’s Walk, Horton was involved with a team “Croton Teachers Association,” which walked and raised funds in honor of district staff who had dealt with breast or ovarian cancer. She joined the River Walk ladies this year after meeting Swankie through a family connection.