Peanut butter and jelly. Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Batman and Robin.

March 20, 2014

Some things are made to go together. That’s kind of how we feel about our new partnership with the Bloomin’ Metric, the local bike ride named to Bicycling magazine’s 50 Best Rides in the country list and as the Best Ride in Connecticut. People out in the fresh air, getting some activity on National Cancer Survivor’s Day all while raising funds for the Bennett Cancer Center? Sounds like Hope in Motion to us!

We caught up with two Hope in Motion veterans who are also riders, Nick Risom (our Event Chairman) and Ned Burns (a Committee member and past BCC patient), to hear more about the Bloomin’ Metric and what our riders can look forward to. Both know a thing or two about riding. Ned says he’s been riding since the training wheels came off his 3-speed banana bike, and Nick concurs, although he got his first official road bike in 2002.

The ride, organized by the Sound Cyclists Bicycle Club in 1977, will take place on Sunday, June 1st at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, CT. With 40-, 75-, and 100-kilometer routes, there are options for varying levels of riders. Nick, who has participated in the past and has done the 100-kilometer route, says the ride is really well-managed and really enjoyable, “especially around the reservoirs and the rolling hills of Easton.”

Both are excited about partnering with the Bloomin’ Metric for our Hope in Motion Ride. Nick notes, “I look forward to riding with the 2,500 other riders on a great course right in our backyard as we focus on fighting cancer and supporting the BCC!” Bringing the best parts of both groups into one event is what it’s all about.

Although the riders won’t be in Columbus Park this year, Ned points out an important fact, “I will miss being in the park, but I know the goal has not changed and it provides us with an opportunity to spread the message and raise more money for the BCC!” Ned should know. He’s been one of our top fundraisers year after year. “I am coming up on the 10th anniversary of finishing my treatment for non-Hodgkin Lymphoma at the BCC. This is great way to give back to the place that did so much for me and to ensure that, going forward, it can help as many families as possible.”

It sounds like it’s going to be a great ride, so don’t delay your registration. For the past few years, the event has sold out! Nick offers this last motivator, “This is one of the best local riding events of the year and now it supports the BCC, what better motivation is there?” You can register here and then form your Hope in Motion fundraising team here. Or if you want to join Nick’s team (Wheels of Hope) or Ned’s team (Living the Dream), you’re welcome to do so.

Thanks Nick and Ned for all you do for Hope in Motion! We’ll see you on your bikes (minus the banana seats).


The perspective of positivity

February 7, 2014

Joe Toma


Between all the depressing news we hear and our tough winter, it’s easy to get into a funk. But have you ever met someone who, despite his/her situation, has a great attitude?  We’ve known Stamford resident, Joe Toma, for a while and recently spoke with him regarding his treatment at the Bennett Cancer Center. Joe’s the epitome of positive attitude, though he admits it’s a trait he had to cultivate. We love our BCC patients, and when you read about Joe, you’ll know why…

In 1997, Joe was working long days at a job he loved—building props and scenery for Broadway shows. When he got an illness he could not shake, he figured it was pneumonia. An astute physician’s assistant encouraged him to get an x-ray, and not long after, he arrived at the Bennett Cancer Center to be treated for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma by Dr. Steven Lo. Joe described being treated at the BCC as “the best thing that could have happened to me.”

With his wife, Fran, by his side, Joe began the difficult treatment process, including chemotherapy, radiation, and a stem cell transplant which, at the time, was a clinical trial. The treatment worked, and Joe was clear for four years until he was diagnosed with neck and head cancer—a diagnosis he calls a “million to one shot.” Joe returned to Dr. Lo and the BCC for more treatment; this time also included a surgery that removed his taste buds, in addition to chemotherapy and radiation. Although Joe’s weight initially plummeted, he credits the support he received at the BCC, and his wife’s great cooking, with helping him pull through. “At the Bennett Cancer Center, they don’t treat you like a number or an insurance card. They treat you like you’re a family member, and that made all the difference.”

Joe admits that he always had “kind of a positive attitude” before, but it wasn’t until he took a trip to Lourdes, a region known for its miracles, where he really solidified his positivity. He recalls seeing many children, including a few in wheelchairs. One boy smiled at him and gave him a thumbs-up. “Here was this little guy in a wheelchair, not even a modern one, and he gives me encouragement. I have a problem? No, I was cured, but these children…I just said to myself, ‘you have nothing to complain about.’”

Little did Joe know, that positivity would be tested again. On the day his wife Fran retired from 30 years of working, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. They knew immediately where to go—the Bennett Cancer Center.  Joe remembers, “We were floored, but once again, they took us by the hand and led us through her treatment. ” Joe is now happy to report that he and his wife are both doing well and enjoying life with their family, especially their two young grandchildren, Memphis and Jackson. Plus, Joe continues his artistic endeavors through drawing and painting.

His family and positive attitude have helped him through it all, but Joe gives the BCC team much of the credit. “Those people are angels—all of them. The doctors, the staff, the support groups, I just can’t say enough good things about the Bennett Cancer Center!”

And we just can’t say enough good things about you, Joe. Thanks for sharing.

You helped make this happen!

May 31, 2013

Since fundraising is at the heart of Hope in Motion, we wanted to give you a peek at the new integrative medicine room at the Bennett Cancer Center, built with funds from Hope in Motion!

Although treatments in the atrium were nice, this room offers a totally different experience for patients: serenity and privacy. This became increasingly important as the hospital’s construction was ramping up. Now, the room offers a warm and inviting environment away from the noise, but still conveniently located at the Cancer Center.

Integrative Medicine practices include Reiki, reflexology, massage, and cranial-sacral therapy. With its new terra cotta walls, dim lights, and soft music, patients can escape from the stressors of their treatments and transitions in this new space. Not only was the room funded by donations from Hope in Motion, but also the practitioners’ fees are covered as well. It’s just what makes Hope in Motion so integral to our patients.

Massage therapist Pam Skidmore commented, “I’m very grateful to have this new space. With no medical equipment around, patients are transported somewhere else. It’s an oasis.” There are 6 practitioners in total, and Pam has been with the BCC for the past 8 years. She notes, “It’s an honor to work with patients on their journeys. To see their stress levels come down during treatments is just so rewarding and gratifying.” We’re grateful to practitioners like Pam and her colleagues as well.

In addition to these treatments, yoga and tai chi are offered at the Tully Center and we’re offering a Nutrition program with Lisa Shepard. Again, all of this is possible through Hope in Motion donations. Director of Cancer Services, Liz Manfredo, added, “We’re just really grateful to everyone who has helped make this room and our services possible. Hope in Motion is so important to us!”

A father, a friend, a Hope in Motion supporter

April 18, 2013

Meet Carlos Baldoz of the Friends of Francis team created 10 years ago to honor his son.

One of the most remarkable outcomes of Hope in Motion is connecting with our wonderful supporters, some who’ve personally battled cancer, some who are supporting friends and family, and some who have cared for a loved one fighting a battle. Regardless, our community is second to none. No one better exemplifies this than Carlos Baldoz, participant, fundraiser, and team captain of “Friends of Francis,” a team created to honor his son.

In 1999, Carlos was like so many of our participants, simply walking in “The Walk” to support the Stamford community. It was a family outing for the Baldoz’s as they joined Carlos’s fellow co-workers. It was only a few short years later that the family would come face-to-face with cancer. In 2002, a Christmas Eve diagnosis showed Francis, 10-years old, had Osteogenic Sarcoma—bone cancer. He would pass away a short 2 ½ months later leaving the family with a huge hole—Carlos recounts what a sweet and loving boy Francis was, one time surprising his mother with a ring he secretly bought at the airport gift shop—and also a mission. “It changed completely when Francis passed away in 2003,” notes Carlos. Never a runner before, he signed up for the Hope in Motion Run and joined his co-workers and friends who had formed the “Friends of Francis” team. Since 2003, the team has raised over $50,000 for the Bennett Cancer Center. “There will be a ‘Friends of Francis’ team for as long as we can do it,” asserts Carlos.

On this, the 10th anniversary of Francis’s passing, Carlos shared with us a little about the boy who has inspired so much love and support. Francis was a “sports man”—enjoying everything from baseball to tennis to skiing. And when he put his mind to something, nothing could stop him. When he was eight, he saw a commercial advertising swimming with the dolphins. Although he couldn’t swim, he said he would like to join the dolphins. That summer, he went to swim camp; he joined the swim team that fall. In December, he was swimming with the dolphins at Discovery Cove, just as he said he would. He was a sweet boy and a devoted and protective big brother to his little sister, Ria. On his deathbed, a few of the last words he said were, “I’ll miss Ria.” The feeling was mutual.

When asked why he has stayed involved for so long, Carlos had this to say: “The Stamford community has been very generous to my son and to my family. This is just one way for my family to give back for all the support they gave us. Plus, I know friends who have greatly benefited from the programs Hope in Motion funds.” He also admits he would love to see a cure discovered through the clinical trials and research conducted by the BCC. It’s this kind of support that makes Hope in Motion such a special community event. Carlos acknowledges all of the loyal Friends of Francis members and notes, “they really can aptly be called the “Family of Francis” as that’s what we’ve become.”

Thank you, Carlos, for your dedication and for sharing your story. We’ll see you on the 2nd along with your amazing team and the rest of the Hope in Motion family.

An Ace of a Fundraising Event: Paddles with a Purpose

April 9, 2013

What do you get when you combine paddle players with friendly competition and a good cause? You get Paddles with a Purpose, an annual event held at the Country Club of New Canaan that benefits the Bennett Cancer Center.

pwp21aFive years ago, the tournament was created as a way for Fairfield County and Westchester County paddle players to close out the season, settle bragging rights, and, most importantly, raise funds for the BCC. What began with 14 teams has now grown to 24 and the friendly competition is just as fierce. This year, the trophy will travel back to New York as father/son duo Ted & Ben Stein beat out brothers Tom & Brian O’Connor. Congratulations Ted & Ben!

Each team is asked to cover a $250 participation cost, 100% of which goes right to the Bennett Cancer Center. Additional donations are made by those who can’t participate and those who just want to watch, and each year they have raised at least $6,000 for the BCC!

pwp2Paddles with a Purpose is another great example of an off-season, grass-roots fundraising event. The participants came up with the idea, the name, and the rules. This tournament works as follows: 24 teams are in the Main Draw; if a team wins, it stays in the Main Draw while the losing teams proceeds to the Consolation Draw; the process continues for three more Draws. We love the idea of BCC supporters coming up with additional fundraising initiatives. It’s a fun afternoon for all involved (did we mention après paddle drinks and food?), plus BCC patients benefit from everyone’s generosity.

pwp7abOne of the founding members/former BCC patient/Hope in Motion executive committee member, Ned Burns, had this to say, "It is great to be able to create an event that provides awareness and enables its participants to donate to the Bennett Cancer Center in an environment that is fun, competitive, and growing each year. It gives you a sense of community and that you are making a difference. We couldn't agree more.

Thanks to all who participated:
Greg Brasher
Tim Brown
Ned Burns
Chuck Del Priore
H. Joseph “Jodie” Dostal, III
Peter Feick
David Fran

On the ice, facing off for hope

February 27, 2013

ImageWe’re thrilled when community members start their own fundraising efforts to benefit the Bennett Cancer Center, and no event better fits the bill than FACE OFF FOR HOPE, now in its second year, led by the New Canaan Winter Club Women’s hockey team, the Mother Puckers. Held on February 5th, the exhibition game between the Mother Puckers and their local rivals, the Stamford Stampede, yielded the Bennett Cancer Center $5,000 in donations!

The idea for the event came from Mother Puckers team member, Lynne Byrne, who suggested organizing and playing a charity hockey game. The team liked the idea and began to brainstorm charities they could support. When fellow teammate, Karen Downing’s husband, Dr. F. John Downing, lost his battle with cancer, the decision was simple. They would support the Bennett Cancer Center where Dr. Downing practiced and began his treatments. Karen came up with the name, and FACE OFF FOR HOPE was born.

A hockey tournament seemed like the perfect event to honor Dr. Downing and his family, as he was a dedicated hockey dad. Although Dr. Downing was a basketball player, his three sons followed in their mother’s skates (she played college ice hockey), and all three sons have been playing since. The eldest, Jack, is currently playing with the AHL. 

The Mother Puckers (who doesn’t appreciate that name?) was formed in 1992 by former hockey players, many who played in college, and missed their ice time. Although women’s hockey wasn’t always the most popular sport, its popularity has grown substantially, especially in Fairfield County.

The funds raised for FACE OFF FOR HOPE come from participant entry fees, as well as the sale of t-shirts, baked goods, and hot cocoa at the event. Lynne notes that many of the participants ask family and friends for additional donations, too. “People have been tremendously generous. It’s wonderful to see,” she said. She loves the notion of their team doing good for others while playing a sport they all love. She adds, “The community rallying around the effort is awesome. There is nothing like camaraderie and common purpose.”

Thank you to the Mother Puckers and the Stamford Stampede for taking a shot at a grassroots fundraising effort. You’ve more than delivered, and we’re incredibly grateful.


Introducing our newly appointed Run Co-Chairs: Debbie Heelan and Liz Herbert!

January 30, 2013

Liz & Debbie Run CoChairsWith a commitment to the cause, countless hours spent pounding the pavement, and a slew of races to their credit (more on that later), we couldn’t think of two more qualified people to lead the planning of this year’s Run portion of Hope in Motion‘s Walk, Run, and Ride.

Born in Stamford and now a Bethel resident, Debbie Heelan found out about Hope in Motion while working at the Ashforth Company (our Founding Sponsor) as a graphic designer in 1998. In fact, she worked on some of our very first promotional materials for “The Walk.” When the event was expanded to include a run, this self-described “cardio junkie” was thrilled and she’s run in the event for the past two years.

Familiar with the Bennett Cancer Center through her husband, Dr. Joshua Herbert, Liz Herbert says that they’ve always been impressed with the high level of care Dr. Herbert’s referred patients have received at the BCC. As residents of Fairfield County—she and her family live in Darien—Liz notes, “We’re very fortunate to have access to such an acclaimed cancer center. It’s one of the benefits of living here.” Liz has run in Hope in Motion two times, placing 3rd and 2nd for women overall.

Both women have been running since high school, and haven’t looked back since. Debbie ran track to stay in shape between sports seasons, and Liz, who says that running is in her genes (her Dad ran at Notre Dame), ran cross-country and track in high school. She was recruited to run at Syracuse University where she ran cross-country and indoor and outdoor track.  Liz’s time at Syracuse included clocking a 5:01 mile. For those not familiar with running, that’s five minutes and 1 second and that’s really fast!

Their love for the sport—some could say obsession—continues today, even despite set-backs. Debbie runs with the Woodbridge Running Company out of Brookfield and also for the Milford Road Runners for scoring events. She took first place for her age group at the Bronx 10-mile race and 2nd place for her age group at both the MORE and Brooklyn half marathons. She had just come off a great racing year and was training for the New York City marathon when she suffered a pelvic stress fracture. “It’s been quite a learning experience for me,” remarked Debbie. She hasn’t become a couch potato though. “I’ve taken up swimming and spinning to stay in shape. I can only hope to be out there for this year’s Hope in Motion!” We hope so, too! In fact, last year, she was the 4th female overall finisher.

Liz has run countless 5Ks, 10Ks, and 15Ks, five half-marathons, and four marathons including the 2012 Chicago marathon where she came in 15th in her age group. She has even participated in the 180-mile Ragnar Relay Race in New York (twice!) and the 200-mile Reach the Beach Relay in New Hampshire. She runs with the Waveny Running Club in New Canaan and the Westchester Track Club. Right now, Liz is training for the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February, the New York City Half Marathon in March, and the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in April. No extra training needed for Hope in Motion on June 2nd!

When not running (when is that?), Debbie is a cooking enthusiast, something her husband and two sons must appreciate. As for Liz, in addition to raising her two children who attend Royle Elementary School in Darien, she is an avid volunteer, offering her to time to Royle, the YWCA of Darien/Norwalk, St. Thomas More Church, and Center for Hope. We’re thrilled that both women can add chairing Hope in Motion’s Run to their busy schedules.

Both women’s vision for the Run is the same: to see it expand into one of the best races in Fairfield County for competitive AND recreational runners. Debbie would love to see a half marathon added and Liz notes, “I’d like to attract more runners from Fairfield County and beyond…Runners are driven and compassionate, a powerful combination for raising money and awareness.” That drive and compassion is no better illustrated than by Debbie and Liz, two great additions to our Hope in Motion Executive Committee.

Welcome! We hope we can keep up with you.

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