NEW BRITAIN - The Connecticut Breast Health Initiative honored survivors of breast cancer, remembered those lost to the disease and vowed to keep fighting for a cure at its 15th annual Race in the Park at Walnut Hill Park.
Survivors and their supporters dressed in pink Saturday.
Others bore on the back of their shirts the names of breast cancer victims - a reminder of why they were there to run, volunteer and raise money.
Joanne Bozadjian, the event’s volunteer coordinator, said she has been involved since the race’s inception. Her sister-in-law died of breast cancer in 1996 and now she and her two daughters volunteer.
“This event is very special to my heart,” said Bozadjian. “We’re looking for a cure and I’m hoping that it will come in my lifetime. Thousands of people come out to support the Race in the Park and we get around 400 volunteers. We have awarded $3.6 million to fund breast cancer research and education and everything we raise stays here in Connecticut.”
Joyce Bray, president and founder of CT BHI, said she was running in memory of her mother, Dorothy, a 32-year survivor who died in 1992.
“She was diagnosed back in the ‘dark age’ of breast cancer, when people didn’t talk about it,” said Bray. “I’m glad that we’ve been able to bring survivors together and get people talking about it as we fight for a cure.”
Mayghan Caran, one of the volunteers, said that she supports the Race in the Park in honor of her aunt, who was diagnosed in 2014, and her cousin Charlene, who was diagnosed the same year and has since died. She was only 35 years old.
Fran Kulsea and Anne Clark have been coming to the Race in the Park together since its inception. They have been doing so in honor of a friend, Clare, who died from breast cancer, and Kulsea’s mother, who is a 98-year-old survivor.
Race Chairwoman Sandi Souza said she has been walking for the last 15 years and became involved in CT BHI two years ago. She did so in memory of her mother-in-law.
Her co-chairwoman, Susanne Bobrowiecki, is a survivor who was diagnosed three years ago.
“It’s great to see the number of women wearing hats with pink ribbons coming back year after year and showing that they are still here and still fighting,” said Bobrowiecki.
Dr, Camelia Lawrence, director of breast surgery for Hartford HealthCare’s Central Region, came to the event wearing a pink cowboy hat.
She said that she lost a close friend to breast cancer and that, for her, this cause is personal. She said that she hopes to encourage women to get examined to help catch breast cancer early.
“Early detection is hugely important until we find a cure,” she said. “Some women still don’t get their annual mammograms and what they might not realize is that some people who develop breast cancer can’t feel it right away.”
Just before the race, a Survivors Breakfast was held in which King Arthur’s Court, a barbershop quartet, went from table to table singing to survivors.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Bray and Lawrence then took turns addressing the guests.
“Today, for me, like I’m sure for so many of you, is my Mother’s Day,” said Bray. “It’s when our family comes together like so many families and friends from all over Connecticut and 20 other states. I know that, for all of the people that are here in the flesh, there are thousands more names on their backs that are here in spirit.”
Wyman said that every year she comes to the Race in the Park, it gets “better and better” because she sees more and more survivors. She encouraged 20-year, 10-year, 5-year and 1-year cancer survivors to stand and be applauded, as well as those who were “one-day survivors.”
“We can keep on going and we can keep on pushing and we can keep going until we find a cure,” said Wyman. “And, we will also keep pushing to find out what is causing breast cancer and prevent it from even happening. We can do this.”
Lawrence praised CT BHI for how much it has raised for cancer research and told how Hartford HealthCare’s center on the New Britain-Plainville line offers services such as same-day consultations and biopsies under one roof.
“We are able to do what we do because of the support of people like you,” she said. “We hope that one day we will not need events like this because breast cancer will be cured. Until then, no woman should have to face breast cancer alone. So, we will rally here together to support and uplift everyone and hope for a brighter tomorrow without breast cancer.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.