Newfane High School business teacher Kyle Beth Bridgeman started walking in Making Strides in 2003, the year one of her best friends was diagnosed with cancer. Two years later, she was pinned with her own disturbing diagnosis of breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy and then endured chemotherapy and radiation as part of her treatment. “I had surgery in September and that year I sat in Niagara Square and waited for my friends as they walked.”
She resumed her annual trek the following year, still part of a team from Newfane Teachers Association in the western New York district. “I walk with friends, colleagues and family…whoever will walk with me!” she said. “I have MANY pink articles of clothing and shop all year for something to wear for the walk besides!” This year her fashion statement was a pink jacket that she bought last winter with the walk in mind.
In school, she said she talks to students about the cause if they are wearing pink, or if they ask her questions when she is wearing one of her pink shirts.
Bridgeman was among the many western New York walkers in Buffalo, Jamestown and in Albion who put one foot in front of the other in chilly but sunny weather for annual Making Strides walks. They helped raise money for breast cancer research, service and access to mammograms.
About 1,200 walkers put on their sneakers to walk in downtown Buffalo, and 200-plus walked at Watt Farms in Albion. “Preliminary info shows we raised over $100,000,” said Elizabeth Vignaux, a NYSUT staff member who helps coordinate the walks as part of NYSUT’s role as a Making Strides flagship sponsor.
Walks were also held in Albany, Binghamton, Jones Beach, Manhattanville and Watertown. Their stories will be posted here all week.
Pine Valley Central School educator Sonja VanSlambrouck is a regular Strides walker in Jamestown, a town hard on the Pennsylvania border. This was her first year registering walkers instead of of walking.
“I enjoyed it,” she said. The weather was chilly, “but the sun was shining on the sea of pink headed up the hill.”
She said she wears the Making Strides shirt each year, with her school team’s name on the back, and wears her pink gloves to keep warm. For the past four years, she’s been brining her dog, a miniature pincher, and he wears a pink sweater.
“I would like to see a cure,” she said. “Not one among us doesn’t have a woman in their lives who can’t be affected.”
VanSlambrouck has been walking seven years. “My son started in a stroller and now walks himself. He has joined me every year.”