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Rays of Hope Walk draws 11,000

SPRINGFIELD Even a high wind warning from the National Weather Service couldn't keep the determined men, women and children of all ages away on Oct. 29, during the 13th Annual Rays of Hope A Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer, who showed up in record numbers this year to lend their support to the community fundraiser.

Once again, the fresh fall air and the beautiful hues of autumn found in Springfield's Forest Park served as the backdrop to this year's Walk, which began from Temple Beth El in Springfield. And, when the 11,000 walkers had taken their last steps around Forest Park, they had raised a record $810,000 to support breast health and research programs at Baystate Health, as well as various community projects.

More than $5 million has been raised in the Walk's 13-year history which began in 1994 with a modest 500 walkers and $50,000 total. Last year's Walk raised $620,000 and featured some 7,000 walkers.

"As my two-year term as Walk co-chair comes to an end, I cannot express enough my deepest gratitude to the many, many walkers, organizations, businesses, and volunteers who made this year's Rays of Hope the most successful ever," said Linda Fawcett of Carlson GMAC Real Estate in Wilbraham.

"This was the first year that I worked behind the scenes and did not walk with a team. As I stood on the stage and watched the sea of people, including many young children and young adults, walking out the driveway under an arch of pink balloons, I was in awe of just how large the crowd was," said Susan Murray, Walk co-chair and market manager, WMAS Radio.

Proceeds of the Walk remain in western Massachusetts to fund programs for breast cancer patients and survivors, breast cancer research, and breast health programs at the Comprehensive Breast Center at Baystate Medical Center, Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, and Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield. Funds also support community organizations including Cancer Connection and Cancer House of Hope.

Anyone who participated in the Walk who is still collecting pledges is asked to convert any cash to a check and mail all donations to Rays of Hope, PO Box 5141, Springfield, MA 01101-5141.

Westfield's own 17-year-old Sarah Charles, who recently sang The National Anthem at Foxboro Stadium, performed for walkers prior to their "stepping off" as well as Amy Rist, a Baystate Health employee and stage and theater performer. There was also an exhibitor tent, staffed with area professionals, to discuss their services for cancer patients, survivors and their families attending the Walk.

Also, The Coca Cola Company generously donated water for participants at water stops along the Walk route along with several other local businesses.

Rays of Hope, the most successful fund raising walk in Western Massachusetts for breast cancer, was founded in 1994 by Springfield native Lucy Giuggio. It went on to become a reality through the efforts of a dedicated group of breast cancer survivors, friends, families and other community volunteers.

Baystate Medical Center's Comprehensive Breast Center is a unique interdisciplinary program incorporating Baystate Medical Center staff physicians and community physicians.

This year's Walk was sponsored by Health New England, Chicopee Savings Bank, Balise Motor Sales and other generous community businesses.

For more information about Rays of Hope A Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer, call 413-794-8001 or visit