Now is the Time to Form Teams and Gather Pledges for the Rays of Hope Walk in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

GREENFIELD — This year’s Rays of Hope – A Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer — is extending farther up the Pioneer Valley. In addition to the annual Springfield fund-raising walk, to be held on Oct. 25, Rays of Hope will step off on the same day from the Energy Park in Greenfield.

“Rays of Hope has become a widely recognized and celebrated event throughout western Western Mass. It is exciting that we have the opportunity to expand the walk, involve a broader audience for support, and bring more awareness to the role Baystate Franklin Medical Center has in supporting breast health through the Baystate Regional Cancer Program,” said Susan Toner, vice president of Development for Baystate Health, and executive director of the Baystate Health Foundation.

Chairing the Greenfield steering committee for the 2009 Rays of Hope walk is Sandy Thomas, of Greenfield. Well known as the “heart and soul” of the town’s 10-year-old Energy Park, Thomas has been active in developing many local events. She has also led and organized national events, serving as president of CHADD (Children with Attention Deficit Disorders) for three years, and directing an annual Building Energy Conference in Boston during her tenure with NESEA (the Northeast Sustainable Energy Assoc.). Presently, Thomas is hosting and co-producing WGBY public television’s “Eco-Exchange,” for which she travels across Western New England, unveiling the many approaches to adopting greener energy sources and savings.

“I’m honored to be chairing this spectacular and hopeful event,” Thomas said. “We are all touched by this disease in some way — through a mother, sister, friend, colleague, or our own experience. I personally am paying tribute to my friends and their families who have been affected by breast cancer by helping with Greenfield’s first Rays of Hope Walk.”

Said Rays of Hope Chair, Carol Baribeau of Southwick, commented, “We we are delighted to have Sandy on board heading up Greenfield’s introduction to Rays of Hope. Her enthusiasm, energy, and connections in and around Greenfield have already proven to us that she is the perfect choice to take on this role. Before we even finished our initial meeting with her, Sandy was off and running with ideas and suggestions on how to make Greenfield’s first Rays of Hope walk a success.”

Participants are encouraged to register for the walk online at www.baystatehealth.org/raysofhope.

The Springfield walk last year raised more than $812,000 to fund programs and services for breast cancer patients and survivors, research, and state-of-the-art equipment at Baystate Regional Cancer Program’s Comprehensive Breast Center in Springfield, and at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield and Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware. In Franklin County, Rays of Hope funds have supported several programs, including Franklin County Home Care’s outreach to rural, senior women; breast cancer support groups at Baystate Franklin Medical Center; therapeutic massage and Reiki programs; the annual BFMC Oncology Writing Workshops; and “Look Good, Feel Good” programs.

“All proceeds raised through Rays of Hope stay right here in our communities and make a direct impact on our own friends and neighbors,” Baribeau noted.

Last year more than 15,000 walkers, including more than 480 teams, participated in the Rays of Hope walk in Springfield. This year the walks will step off at 10:30 a.m. from Temple Beth El on Dickinson Street in Springfield, and in Greenfield from the Energy Park on Miles Street. Registration begins at 9 a.m. Greenfield walkers may choose from either a three- or two-mile a 3- or 2-mile walk route.

Those who want to support the Rays of Hope, but are unable to walk due to other commitments, may participate as a “10,000 Stepper” through the “10,000 Steps Toward a Cure” virtual walk. As part of the virtual walk program, participants receive a pedometer to keep track of their steps during the month of October. Virtual walkers raise donations similar to other participants in the Walk and achieve their 10,000 steps (approximately five miles) during the course of their daily routine. Entire teams may be made up of 10,000 Steppers.

Teams, individual walkers and 10,000 Steppers may also create their own fundraising webpages. These pages can be personalized with photos and text explaining participants’ personal involvement with Rays of Hope and the steps they are taking towards a cure for breast cancer; participants may then send links to their friends and family via email, asking for their support.

Rays of Hope was founded in 1994 by Lucy Giuggio and has raised nearly $7.4 million since that time.

For more information about this year’s Rays of Hope walk, held rain or shine, call 413-794-8001 or visit www.baystatehealth.org/raysofhope.