Since it was founded a decade ago, Baystate Health System’s Rays of Hope Walk, staged to help wage the fight against breast cancer, has evolved into the largest single-day fundraising event in Western Mass.
In 2003, the 10th edition of the walk raised nearly $600,000 to benefit the Comprehensive Breast Center at Baystate and varioius community support projects. More than 7,000 participants, including 250 teams, walked or ran one of the two courses created in the Forest Park section of Springfield.
This year, in an attempt to build on those impressive numbers, event organizers are continuing the evolutionary process by utilizing technology. Two programs have been implemented to make it easier for individuals and teams to both sign up friends, family members, co-workers and others who pledge various amounts to the walkers — and also to simply participate.
Hugh Barrett, Baystate’s fund-raising manager and walk coordinator, told The Healthcare News that event organizers have enlisted the help of San Diego-based Kintera Inc. to enable teams and individuals to sign up pledgers via the Internet. Meanwhile, for those who want to participate but can’t walk or run on Oct. 24, Baystate is inviting them to take “1,000 steps toward a cure.” Pedometers will be provided to such individuals, and they can walk anytime in October to support the cause.
The new programs are being designed to spur continuous growth of the Rays of Hope walk, which started with 500 walkers, said Barett, adding that in the event’s first decade, it has raised more than $3.5 million to fight breast cancer.
The walk was initiated by breast cancer survivor and Baystate nurse Lucy Giuggio. She had run in a road race to support breast cancer research and desired to bring a similar event to Western Mass.
Baystate become involved in the event’s second year, and has orchestrated steady growth ever since.
“We’ve been exploring ways to make it easier for people to take part, either as walkers or as supporters,” he said. “These new programs will help remove some of the barriers or obstacles that people face.”
Kintera’s “Friends Asking Friends” solicitation program, for example, allows individuals and teams to create customized Web sites that make it easier to solicit donations from friends and family members across the country. Many of the pages feature photos and text explaining a team’s involvement in the Rays of Hope event.
“This is very simple tool to use, and it enables teams and individuals to reach out to people they might not have approached before because of the miles separating them,” Barrett explained, adding that more than 30 teams have already created Web sites and they were seeing good response. “This adds convenience for the walkers, and also the supporters.”
The 10,000 Steps Toward a Cure campaign, meanwhile, enables people to join the breast cancer fight while working out at the gym or merely walking the corridors at the office. “When you think about it, it doesn’t take too long to walk 10,000 steps,” said Barrett. “You can do that in a few days a work.”
Barrett said there is no specific fund-raising goal for this year’s walk; the mission is merely to continue the event’s strong growth pattern and thus gain more resources for the fight against breast cancer. He said the walk’s new programs should help with that assignment. “More people are going to be able to take part.”
This year’s walk-a-thon will step off on Oct. 24 from temple Beth El in Springfield at 10:30 a.m. For more information or to register online, visit
www.baystatehealth.com/raysofhope, send an E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (413) 794-8001.