A clear blue-sky covered Smith Point Park in Shirley on Saturday, where LI2Day held its annual 13.1 mile walk to fight breast cancer. Overhead sunshine highlighted the smiles, resilience and overwhelming support displayed by the event’s survivors, fighters and supporters.
Behind every breast cancer statistic, there is a story toward survival, and LI2Day’s journey is one of positivity and benevolence; it’s the celebration of community strength and the friendships that form within it, walkers said.
Each team of walkers congregated at the event’s registration and breakfast at 6 a.m., and regardless of the early start time, excitement filled the air.
Candie Hassall, of Shirley, arrived with her husband, Terry, who was dressed up as what many were calling a Victoria’s Secret angel – including the bra and halo – all in good fun.
“We have six first-time walkers this year, and we just recruited our second male bra wearer,” Candie Hassall said. “It’s a wonderful cause and we love doing it every year.”
Saturday was her ninth time walking and her husband’s eighth.
“It’s a great organization; great people,” Hassall added. “We all get along. We have a great time on the walk. We’re laughing with each other. We make great new friends. It’s one big happy family every year.”
LI2Day is a not-for-profit organization that raises awareness and funds for Long Islanders with breast and other cancers. All of what’s raised on the Island stays local.
Beginning at the park’s DARE area, over 300 walkers proceeded along the beach boardwalk, through the local neighborhood and back again, creating a quarter-mile wave of pinks, blues and yellows that slowly stretched itself out as they got closer to the finish line.
Set up at certain increments throughout the 13.1 miles, were “cheer spots” arranged by community and family members.
Sporting pink gear at their cheer station and proud of it was the Tri-Hamlet Women’s League formed last September by Mastic Beach resident Elaine Parker.
“I just have always loved this community,” Parker said. “I thought there’s got to be women like myself that really love it here and would love to give back to our community, and that’s what we’ve done 266 members later.”
Janet Palma, a Tri-Hamlet Women’s League member and eight-year cancer survivor, was one of many handing out pink décor and mini party favors as the walkers passed by their station.
“When I first was diagnosed, all I wanted to know was people lived. I just had to hear that people lived. So, I want to be here to show everybody and the walkers that they can still be here. For me, it was so important to see that people made it,” she said.
Waiting just across the finish line at the Shirley Marina were fellow survivors, family and friends in high spirits waiting to present each walker with a congratulatory metal of honor.
The Outback in Lindenhurst provided everyone attending with lunch, while the Patchogue-Medford High School Choral Ensemble sang a medley of tunes from the musical “A Chorus Line.”
Emergency cots underneath a tent lay bare, as the walk produced zero emergencies or health concerns, according to Robert Lambert, a Suffolk County medical control paramedic. He has coordinated the EMS and ambulette services each year since the event’s commencement in 2004.
His wife, Karen Lambert, coincidentally and unexpectedly was diagnosed with and beat breast cancer after years of volunteering for the event. She, too, is five years cancer-free.
The event closed with a final-mile stretch across the Smith Point Bridge. Led by a procession consisting of bagpipes and drummers, the marathon walkers concluded their march. Cancer survivors followed closely behind in tie-dyed T-shirts, which helped them stand out from the crowd. Each one was greeted with a pink rose and a final cheer.
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