Esslie-Frenia Law June 2023 Leaderboard

GOOD NEWS!: Community pulls together to support breast cancer survivors


By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Walkers set out from the VFW Post 9594 on the annual breast cancer walk in Ravena. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

RAVENA — There was a sea of pink making its way through the village when VFW Post 9594 hosted the annual walk in support of breast cancer survivors.

The 1-mile walk, hosted by the VFW’s Auxiliary, started at the post and wound its way through the village, raising awareness of breast cancer and collecting funds to support those battling the disease.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Last year’s walk raised money to support local resident Darlene Mergendahl, who is living with breast cancer and said there are many people in the community that have faced the disease.

“There are so many people here who have gone through this, so they are supporting it because they know what it’s like,” Mergendahl said. “Support like this is definitely needed.”

This year’s walk was organized by resident Lori Nunziato, an Auxiliary member who set up several committees to oversee the various components of the walk. She has a good friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, so the cause is near and dear to her heart.

“It’s an important cause,” Nunziato said. “Our community faces a lot of breast cancer cases. We have a member in the Auxiliary who is currently battling breast cancer and I asked her if she wanted us to designate the funds raised for her and she said she doesn’t need assistance, but she would like for the money to go to an organization that can help others.”

Raffle tickets at the event helped raise more funds in support of breast cancer patients. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Two-thirds of the money raised by the walk and associated activities like a raffle, bake sale and donation jar, will go to To Life!, a Capital Region non-profit group that provides education and support to people living with breast cancer.

“The other one-third will remain in our fund as a breast cancer fund in case more members or someone from the Post needs help because of breast cancer,” Nunziato said.

Last year’s walk raised $3,000.

This year, Nunziato added, included a raffle for 27 gift baskets — last year there were three — and there was a bake sale, a 50/50 raffle, and chances for a donated quilt, which Auxiliary members sold at a local supermarket through the month of October.

VFW Post 9594 Auxiliary members also sold baked goods to raise additional funds for breast cancer advocacy. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Members of the Ravena Fire Department were also on hand selling hamburgers and hot dogs to raise money for the department and to attract new volunteers. Supporting breast cancer survivors is an important cause, said Megan Aurelia from the department.

“We are here to support the VFW in their breast cancer awareness walk,” Aurelia said. “This is the second year that we participated. We are here to support our community.”

Deputy Fire Chief Travis Witbeck said cancer has touched the lives of so many people in the community.

“As a department, we want to make sure we are a part of this community,” Witbeck said. “It’s not just about serving the community, it’s about being part of it and supporting all of these kinds of events. And if we can raise awareness and funds for eradicating this scourge, that would be awesome.”

Nunziato was pleased to see so many people turn out to support the cause.

“I’m all about community,” she said. “I’ve lived here my whole life and when there is somebody that is struggling, we all roll up our sleeves to help, no matter what it is. That is what I admire and like the most about this community — it’s all about community.”

Walkers donned plenty of pink for the event. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media
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