Toward a Cure Rays of Hope Walk Raises Record Amount in Its 14th Year

“That’s her in the pink shirt over there,” one walker could be heard pointing out someone to a friend.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” laughed the friend, confronted with a sea of pink before her at the annual Rays of Hope Walk on a sunny but windy late-October morning. There were pink hats, pink sweatshirts, and pink shirts everywhere the eye could see. Even pink hair.

Once again, the fresh fall air and the colorful hues of autumn served as the backdrop to the annual Rays of Hope Walk, which began from Temple Beth El. When the walkers had taken their last steps around Forest Park, they had raised a record $850,000 to support breast health and research programs at Baystate Health, as well as various community projects, noted Michelle Graci, coordinator of Fund Raising Events for the Baystate Health Foundation.

More than $6 million has been raised in the Walk’s 14-year history, which began in 1994 with a modest 500 walkers and $50,000 total.

One Springfield police officer, experienced at ‘guestimating’ crowds, said “there were definitely more walkers than last year. I’d say about 13,000 people.”

“Hopefully someday soon they will find a cure, and we won’t have to hear the words breast cancer ever again,” said Susan Murray-Van Stone, Rays of Hope chairperson and general manager of WMAS Radio.

Local Needs

A full 100{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of the walk proceeds remain in Western Mass. to fund programs for breast cancer patients and survivors, breast cancer research, and breast health programs at the Comprehensive Breast Center at Baystate Medical Center, Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, and Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield. Funds also support community organizations, including the Cancer Connection and Cancer House of Hope.

Westfield’s 14-year-old Alexa Wegiel sang the national anthem for walkers prior to their stepping off, and walkers were also serenaded by Amy Rist, a Baystate Health employee and stage and theater performer. Also at the starting point was an exhibitor tent, staffed with area professionals discussing their services for cancer patients, survivors, and their families. Coca-Cola donated water for participants at stops along the walk route.

Rays of Hope, the most successful fund-raising walk in Western Mass. for breast cancer, was founded in 1994 by Springfield native Lucy Giuggio. It became a reality through the efforts of a group of breast cancer survivors, friends, familiy members, and community volunteers.

Baystate Medical Center’s Compre-hensive Breast Center is an interdisciplinary program incorporating BMC staff physicians and community physicians. Under the medical direction of Dr. Grace Makari-Judson, the program includes breast imaging, core biopsy, diagnostic evaluation, multidisciplinary consultation, breast cancer risk assessment, genetic consultation, education and outreach services, and support services. The center also supports community education and treatment programs at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield and Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware.

This year’s walk was sponsored by Health New England, the event’s lead sponsor, as well as Chicopee Savings Charitable Foundation and Balise Motor Sales. Media sponsors were 94.7 WMAS and ABC40.

Anyone who participated in the Walk who is still collecting pledges is asked to convert any cash to a check and mail all donations to Rays of Hope, P.O. Box 5141, Springfield, MA 01101-5141.

For more information about Rays of Hope: A Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer, call (413) 794-8001 or visit

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