New York City

Thousands join epic 39-mile Avon NYC walk to fight breast cancer

A second walk with American Cancer Society brings thousands to Prospect Park

October 20, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Avon Walk in Cadman Plaza Park, Brooklyn. Photo by Mary Frost
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New York City was a sea of pink this past weekend, as nearly 3,000 participants joined in the epic two-day, 39.3 mile 12th annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancer New York, which raised $7 million for breast cancer research, screening, education and treatment.

Walkers, many of whom traveled to New York from other states, covered 26.2 miles on Saturday and spent the night in pink tents on Randall’s Island before setting off for another 13.1 miles on Sunday.

Participants included 376 breast cancer survivors and more than 400 men — many wearing T-shirts reading, “Real Men Wear Pink.”

Colleen Gibney, Jaime Polatsek, Lisa Goldman and Stacy Faith, friends from New Jersey, did the walk decked out in pink tutus.

Colleen told the Brooklyn Eagle she and her buddies were walking for Stacy. “Stacy overcame breast cancer like a champion and she asked nothing of any of us. So we’re marching. She’s one of those selfless people; there’s not many of those nowadays.”

“It’s overwhelming to see everybody here,” Stacy said.

Another group walking was Team Betsy, comprised of 10 participants honoring Betsy Means, who passed away in September 2013 at age 59 after a long battle with breast cancer. Betsy, who lived in New York City, had a successful career in the corporate world before moving on to teach and advise at several city schools. Friends said she was an energetic mother, wife and friend who still found time to volunteer on behalf of the many causes that were important to her, including the Association to Benefit Children.

Team members and donors participated in the event to honor a woman whose generosity had touched them, and to help those who continue to fight against breast cancer.

“While walking this weekend, I thought about how many people contributed to the success of this inspiring event – not only all of the walkers but also the motivating crew members, cheering pedestrians, and all the people who must have contributed to each person’s fundraising efforts,” said Carrie Gardner, one of Betsy’s three children.

“I was nervous that this weekend might make me sad, thinking about how much pain breast cancer has caused, but instead I found there was a pervasive sense of positivity, determination, camaraderie, and strength from start to finish. I’m grateful to all of those who participated in any way,” she added.

Betsy’s husband, Steve Gardner, her children, Liza, Carrie and Davy, and their friends raised more than $30,000 for the walk.

At lunchtime on Saturday, participants crossing the Brooklyn Bridge were cheered at the entrance to Cadman Plaza Park by energetic members of the Youth Crew, volunteers ages 10 to 16.

Youth Crew leader Michelle Baialardo said crew members had to be accepted to the program and then undergo training.

“I volunteer because I lost my mother to breast cancer as a teenager,” she said. “Every three minutes someone hears, ‘You’ve got breast cancer.'”

At the closing ceremony at Hudson River Park, Eloise Caggiano, a breast cancer survivor and Avon Walk program director, announced 11 new grants to local breast cancer organizations. These grants will help get treatment to underinsured and underserved populations, help fund drug research, outreach and screening, and support groups like God’s Love, We Deliver, which delivers meals to breast cancer patients.

Also this past weekend, the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K community walk raised roughly $5.6 million across all five boroughs. This included 30,000 pink-clad walkers in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, who raised $1.1 million in a trek that kicked off in the Nethermead.

Among the groups participating was the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association (BWBA). Brooklyn Judge Joanne Quinones and her family were a part of the BWBA team (shown above). 

Funds raised in the American Cancer Society’s walks go toward research, providing information and services to people facing breast cancer, and ensuring access to mammograms for women who need them.

To donate to the Avon Foundation, visit  Donations to the American Cancer Society can be made at

Additional reporting by Samantha Samel, Brooklyn Daily Eagle

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