By Leslie Yager
CancerCare’s Sunday 5K Run-Walk, with a mini run for children, drew a group of about 250 runners to Tod’s Point on Sunday.
Cars began to stream into Tod’s under pale gray skies around 8:00am. After runners registered, they helped themselves to bagels, apples and bananas. A group of GHS volunteers handed out t-shirts.
CancerCare, a non-profit that offers free professional services for anyone affected by cancer, provides their services – counseling, support groups, resources and financial assistance – free of charge.
A vinyl banner hung between two sturdy trees and nearby assortment of colored Sharpies offered a “Wall of Hope.”
After runners registered, survivors were invited to visit the Mission table to pick up a hat and a big. Participants were encouraged to congratulate anyone in one of those hats.
As participants each wrote messages on the banner, the exercise gave one pause. One message written by a child read, simply, “To grandpa who could not survive, lots of kisses. I hope you are proud of me.”
“One year ago I was celebrating my 50th birthday, happy and healthy,” said said Margie Benefico, the event’s honorary chairperson.
“Then at the end of August, a lump in my neck was diagnosed by my primary care doctor as a type of Lymphoma. A biopsy confirmed it was non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Hence the name of my team today is ‘The Lymphomaniacs!’ Isn’t that a great name!” she exclaimed.
“In a moment your life is changed forever, as you go from being a regular person to being a cancer patient,” said Benefico, whose moving remarks brought hundreds to silence.
“In the beginning it was surreal,” Benefico said, adding that on her second day of chemo her mother passed away. She described the thoughts that went through her mind, including fear, anger, worry and confusion about what treatment options are best.
“After the initial shock wears off, you need real answers about your condition from a reliable source and support from a resource you can depend on. For me CancerCare was that valuable resource.”
Many signed up to run on their own. Others walked or ran as part of teams, with names like Remission Possible, Hari Om, and Cancer Crusaders. The biggest group, with 53 members, was The Lymphomaniacs who drove down from Bethel for the morning event.
After a rousing national anthem CancerCare some extraordinary fundraising efforts were acknowledged including young Sophie Khanna who raised over $10,000 for CancerCare on her own.
Once attention turned to running, local Greenwich Track Club director Bill Bogardus, who teaches PE at Riverside School, led several hundred people in warmups on the hill overlooking the beach Long Island Sound. Jumping Jacks and “Jills,” were part of the regimen, followed by a half-mile children’s fun run.
Among the runners was State Rep. Fred Camillo (R-Dist. 151), who crossed the finish line alongside his friend Mary O’Connor. Just as the runners began to cross the finish line, the sun burned through the clouds and Greenwich High School volunteers, including Julia Marache, Estella Perone and Maggie Keatinge were ready with water bottles.
CancerCare 2nd Annual Greenwich 5K Walk/Run for Hope
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