Quabbin Reservoir to Host Walk of Champions on May 4

WARE — Each year, more than 1,200 walkers meet on the first Sunday in May at the Goodnough Dike at the Quabbin Reservoir, joining forces to walk in honor or memory of loved ones affected by cancer, with the determination to make a difference.
Sunday, May 4 marks the ninth annual Walk of Champions. In 2013, the Walk of Champions raised a record-setting $91,000 in support of integrated cancer services at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital.
 “Keeping cancer-related care local is critical for us, and our communities confirm that each year through their participation and generosity,” said Chuck Gijanto, president of Baystate Regional Markets, which includes Baystate Mary Lane Hospital. “We are honored by the many area businesses that sponsor our walk and the hundreds of walkers who participate in the Walk of Champions.”
Since 2006, he added, the Walk of Champions has raised over $468,000 to benefit cancer care.
 “Country Bank is pleased to once again be the presenting sponsor of the Baystate Mary Lane Hospital Walk of Champions,” said Deb Gagnon, Corporate Relations officer at Country Bank, who also serves on the walk’s steering committee. “We are proud to have been part of this very worthwhile event since its inception in 2006, raising money to assist our local community hospital. We are grateful to Baystate Mary Lane for the care they give our neighbors who are fighting their battle against cancer and allowing them to receive treatment close to home, which makes all the difference.”
The Walk of Champions was established in 2006 in memory of Barbara O’Neill by her son, John, after he was touched by the “wonderful, compassionate care” given to her by the staff at Baystate Mary Lane. O’Neill’s commitment to keeping cancer care local became even stronger when his sister, Cheryl, was diagnosed with breast cancer and was able to receive her care at the hospital as well. As the number of walkers increased, the Walk of Champions moved in 2008 from its Warren location to the Quabbin Reservoir in memory of Steven Gagner, who 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.
 “Our patients come from many area communities to receive their treatment here because of the expert care, as well as the atmosphere of hope and friendship that we are known for,” said Lori Tuttle, program manager of the Baystate Regional Cancer Program Satellite in Ware. “Our oncology team works together to meet the medical and social challenges that patients face with a cancer diagnosis.”
Oncologist Dr. Chandravathi Loke and hematologist Dr. Richard Steingart are faculty members of the Baystate Medical Practices Division of Hematology and Oncology who provide care in Ware. They are joined by experienced, oncology-certified nurses who are sensitive to the unique challenges that each patient and family face throughout their cancer journey.
“The Walk of Champions means so many different things to me — first, triumph over cancer for another year,” said Buzz Tremblay, who receives care at the Baystate Regional Cancer Program in Ware. “Second, spending time with my fellow survivors, the people who really understand what it’s like to wage war against our different cancers. My family and I walk to thank our doctors, nurses, and support staff at Baystate Mary Lane Oncology for being there for us during every facet of our journey. They are a lifeline of encouragement, advice, laughs, and love.
“I could go on forever,” he added. “Let’s just say it’s a rewarding day all around, in a beautiful setting.”
Now is the time to form a team and become involved in the 2014 Walk of Champions and help make a difference in the lives of people undergoing cancer treatment at the Baystate Regional Cancer Program satellite at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital. This year, funds raised will also support the purchase of a 64-slice CT scanner. This new scanner is more powerful than the hospital’s current 16-slice scanner, and it will improve patient safety by delivering a lower dose of radiation while allowing for better patient care with advanced imaging capabilities.
The Walk of Champions offers a five-mile or two-mile walk among the comfortable terrain of the Goodnough Dike. Entertainment and refreshments will be provided along the walk route.
Pledge forms are available for businesses, community organizations, and community members who are participating in the walk.  Registration for the walk, fund-raising resources, and more, including online giving opportunities, can be found at www.baystatehealth.org/woc. For more information about the Walk of Champions, or to find out how to become involved, contact Michelle Graci at (413) 794-7654 or michelle.graci@baystatehealth.org.

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