Each year, Rays of Hope brings more than 20,000 people together to walk, run, and support one another in the effort to find the cure for breast cancer. Behind all of the pink, the excitement, the hugging, and the tears, two women look out over the crowd and take a thankful sigh.
Their smiles are contagious. Their hearts are huge. They are Lucy Giuggio Carvalho and Denise Jordan.
Lucy is the founder of Rays of Hope and Denise is the 2018 and 2019 chair of the event. Both women are survivors and serve as lighthouses in a sea of what can sometimes feel like darkness to those battling the disease.
“It takes on a different meaning that I’m talking about an organization that I’m not just an ambassador for – I’m a recipient of its care and services,” shared Denise, who was diagnosed in 2014.
For Lucy, it’s been 25 years of the community coming together for this cause. In 1994, recently diagnosed and inspired by the AIDS Walk & Run Boston, Lucy wanted to make a difference for those whose lives had been impacted by breast cancer in her community.
“It’s a life’s work,” Lucy shared. “I wanted to do something for our community – for the people who live here.”
“The money stays right here,” added Denise. “Everyone knows someone who has been impacted by breast cancer. If you’ve contributed to Rays of Hope in some form or fashion, you’ve supported that person.”
In partnership with the Baystate Health Breast Network and Baystate Health Foundation, the funding from the event benefits research at the Rays of Hope Center for Breast Cancer Research, breast cancer programs and services, outreach and education, and awards grants to community support programs and organizations.
A ribbon that bonds
In 2018, it was a fairly regular occurrence for Lucy and Denise to come together to share their stories and promote the event. As a result, a friendship bloomed.
“Lucy is just a ball of fire. It’s her energy and enthusiasm that gets you going,” shared Denise. “She’s so selfless. To just know what she was going through 25 years ago, and that there wasn’t a lot of research going on, and she says ‘what can I do to help other people?’ And look where we are.”
The feeling is mutual.
“You can tell it comes from her heart,” said Lucy about Denise’s dedication to Rays of Hope.
Denise’s involvement with the organization began with some encouragement from her close friend, Tracy Whitley, who passed away in 2017 after battling breast cancer. Denise has dedicated her leadership to the event in Tracy’s honor.
Support continues for the Rays of Hope Walk & Run Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer. The 2018 event drew approximately 22,000 attendees and raised $611,203 – making the total raised these last 25 years over $14.8 million. The proceeds from this event stay local to support survivors and promote research.
Lucy and Denise both hope for a cure within the next 25 years so that future generations will grow up in a world without breast cancer.
“The cure could come from western Massachusetts,” said Lucy, with the same hope in her voice that helped her create this event more than two decades ago. “We’ll keep walking until we find the cure.”
Save the date for Rays of Hope on Sunday, October 27, 2019 and learn more about how you can show your support.