The Hauppauge-based team raised more than $106, 000 for Avon’s Walk For Breast Cancer in New York City on Oct. 14 and 15.
The Wellness Warriors’ 34-member team was recognized as the third place winner in fundraising out of more than 300 teams. The group of Hauppauge family, friends and relatives has raised more than $500,000 since 2006, and each member has their own reason for completing the 39.3-mile walk.
“It’s a community event that we do every year and everyone has a story,” said Patti Novy, captain of the Wellness Warriors. “In the last year, I’ve had three friends in Hauppauge diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s hitting home. I can’t imagine stopping. I can’t imagine not walking.”
Novy first participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in 2004 in honor of her sister-in-law, late Hauppauge resident Michele Reumann. Reumann lost her battle against breast cancer in 2003, leaving behind a husband and three children.
“In 2004, we walked as three friends walking together and we didn’t have a team,” Novy said. “The next year, my neighbors all came in, and there was 11 of us.”
Each walker commits to fund raising a minimum of $1,800 to participate in Avon’s Walk for Breast Cancer. This year, Novy raised more than $4,000.
Teammate Joanne Gatto, 47, of Hauppauge, said she initially was put off by high fundraising goal, thinking it would be impossible to reach. Now in her fifth year participating, Gatto regular raises from $3,000 to $5,000. She emails friends and family to solicit donations, while others host fundraising events throughout the year.
“I get goosebumps just thinking about it. It’s amazing what an average group of people can accomplish,” she said.
Gatto joined the Wellness Warriors in memory of her cousin Linda, who died of breast cancer at 36 after a 18-month battle. And each year, she said she’s writing more names on her tag to show who she walks for.
“This year, when I finished the walk, I was in tears. This is the fifth year we’ve walked. But no matter how many miles we walk or how much money we raised it doesn’t bring my cousin back,” Gatto said. “I don’t want to have it happen to anyone else.”
Joe Grippo, among the newest of team members, has joined his wife, Lisa, in walking for the Wellness Warriors over the last two years. Joe joined the team after his mother died of breast cancer in August 2010.
“[Breast Cancer] affects men and affects men’s lives. I think more men should be supportive of this walk because it affects their wives, daughters, their sisters,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be wearing pink.”
Joe said the team owes a lot of thanks to the Hauppauge community who has shown their endless support, attending fundraisers and helping out. He hopes more residents will choose join the team in 2012.
“Hopefully more people will join, more people will raise funds and hopefully we’ll beat it.”