Fourth Annual Walk of Champions to be held at the Quabbin Reservoir

WARE — On Sunday, May 3, Baystate Mary Lane Hospital will hold its fourth annual Walk of Champions to benefit the Baystate Regional Cancer Program at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital.

This year’s walk will be held at the Quabbin Reservoir. The new location will better accommodate the growing number of walkers committed to the Walk of Champions. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m., and the program will open at 9:30 a.m. Walkers will step off at 10:00 a.m. from the Quabbin Reservoir Tower parking area and will proceed along the Windsor Dam; both two-mile and five-mile routes will be available.

The Walk of Champions began in 2006 when John O’Neill, Ladies Field Hockey Coach at Quaboag Regional Middle High School, contacted hospital officials after he watched his mother struggle with cancer.

“This fund-raiser has become my commitment to assisting those who have varying forms of cancer,” he said. “When Mom passed along six years ago, it was one of the most devastating moments in my life. However, her life and her passing inspired me to get involved and make a difference. It was because of the wonderful care, compassion, and comfort given to her by the staff at Baystate Mary Lane that my commitment to support the cancer program is so strong.”

The Quabbin Reservoir location for this year’s walk was inspired by the family and friends of late State Police Trooper Steven Gagner.

Gagner served as a state trooper for 24 years and was stationed at the Quabbin; he had just turned 55 when he died of pancreatic cancer. Family friends Cindy and Roy St. George walked in Gagner’s memory in 2008 and came up with the idea of honoring him by moving the Walk of Champions to the reservoir.

“We are very grateful to have the support of the Department of Conservation & Recreation as well at the Massachusetts State Police for this year’s Walk of Champions,” said Deb Gagnon, Development manager at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital. “The new location is central to our communities, and offers many picturesque sights along the walk route.”

Country Bank for Savings is this year’s presenting sponsor of the Walk of Champions, and Intercity Lines Inc. of Warren is the gold sponsor.

“Our local business community is a great support to Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in every way,” noted Gagnon. “Whether volunteering their time or sending a monetary donation, we can always count on them to be in our corner.”

Refreshments will be provided along the routes, and the Walk of Champions will conclude with more food and entertainment at the Quabbin Reservoir Tower. Pledge forms are available for businesses, community organizations, and community members who are participating in the walk. Online donations may be made through www.firstgiving.com/bmlh.

“We have had a great deal of community support over the years for cancer services at Baystate Mary Lane,” said Gagnon. “Patients who are being treated here for cancer benefit from our patient-centered environment and the expertise of our medical staff from the Baystate Regional Cancer Program; we also offer family support counseling, educational materials, pastoral care, and state-of-the art equipment — plus so much more, thanks to the continuing generosity of our community.”

For more information about the Walk of Champions, or to find out how to become involved, call Gagnon at (413) 967-2458.

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