DUTCHESS COUNTY, N.Y. -- When a woman hears the words "you have breast cancer," they are often stunned, and then the fear hits. In Dutchess County, the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation works hard to embrace those women and make sure that no one feels alone.
The brainchild of two community activists, Dana Effron and Cathy Varunok, who saw a need for increased help for people with breast cancer throughout the Hudson Valley, the organization recently celebrated its 13th anniversary in Dutchess County and the Hudson Valley.
"We really work at providing the type of help that is hard to find," said Executive Director Pari Forood. "So many organizations donate money to breast cancer research, so we wanted to provide alternative services that women in treatment often need and can't find."
That help can range from help paying an electric bill to just having someone to talk to about what to expect during an upcoming treatment, Forood said.
The top four topics of focus for the organization include:
- Complementary Medicine – this includes funding of massage therapy, Reiki, acupuncture, music therapy, exercise/dance, and art therapy programs to enhance recovery.
- Scholarships for college-bound high school seniors whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. Scholarships are given in all eight counties.
- Medical Gap Care Fund for individuals who are faced with life emergencies and/or costs not covered by health insurance while they are undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
- Peer-to-Peer - a program uniting recently diagnosed breast cancer patients with trained survivors.
Forood points to use of massage therapy as an example: "Doctors found that many patients rebounded better before and after surgery -- lower blood pressure, better recovery, and outcome of surgery -- if they were relaxed and not stressed out before.
"It seems so simple, and it is, but having a massage before surgery or treatment can make a world of difference," she said.
Working in all eight counties of the Hudson Valley is a challenge, but every day the group brainstorms on ways to reach even more people.
"We would love to do more in Westchester County," Forood said. "Especially by reaching out to business to help support our organization."
As a public charity, Miles of Hope spends a lot of time raising money to be able to provide their services to thousands of women.
"Since our inception, we have provided more than $1.5 million helping people," she said.
Some of their major fundraisers are: Hoops for Hope Women’s Basketball Tournament at Marist College in Poughkeepsie in March; the Miles of Hope Spring Brunch at the Grandview in Poughkeepsie in May; a 5K and Children’s Family Fun Run at Tymor Park in Dutchess County in April; Goals for Hope Women’s Soccer Tournament at the Lagrange Soccer Fields in Lagrange in August; and their signature event, the Community Breast Cancer Walk at James Baird State Park off of the Taconic State Parkway in Pleasant Valley in October.
"We're here so no one else is alone," Forood said. "That's what Miles of Hope is all about."
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