OUR ORIGIN STORY
Breast and Ovarian Cancer has affected so many of us in different ways. Some of us get Breast Cancer, some are in remission, some, have family members suffering from Breast or Ovarian Cancer, and some have friends who lost the fight against Breast Cancer. No matter how you are affected, you are never the same after Breast Cancer has invaded your life. What you choose to do about that invasion can be empowering and positive for others facing the same challenges, struggles and hardships.
After losing a very dear friend to Breast Cancer in 2000, Carolyn Pistolesi and Marilyn LaPierre decided to show their support in the fight against Breast Cancer by participating in a Breast Cancer Walk/Run in Norwood, New York in August. Monies raised at this event went to help women who were diagnosed with Breast Cancer through the Healthy Living Partnership of St. Lawrence County and the Jefferson/Lewis Healthy Women's Partnership.
These two partnerships had money through state funds to help diagnose women, but if they were above the qualifying financial assistance level once diagnosed, there were no funds to help them in their treatment. All funds raised during the event were used to provide treatment and services to these women. On the way home, both women felt good that they had done something positive in memory of their dear friend Donna Weldon.
A few weeks went by, and these two women, both members of the Gouverneur Business Women Club, were together again doing something related to Breast Cancer. During their monthly meeting, DeDe Walter, a local business women, community member, mother, wife, sister, and Breast Cancer survivor, happened to be the month's guest speaker. DeDe was on the Board of Directors for the not-for-profit that supported the walk attended by Carolyn and Marilyn back in August. She talked about the upcoming major fundraiser in October and her involvement in the cause, but what really touched the group was when she spoke about her experience dealing with Breast Cancer. How she felt, how her family and friends rallied around her to support her as best they could, and her fears for her daughter as she became older. She also spoke of what she wanted to see for other Breast Cancer patients in the future. She was one of the lucky ones; she had survived and had a story to tell.
After DeDe was done speaking and the members wiped away a tear or two, then president Marilyn LaPierre said, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could do something like that too" With that statement, the Gouverneur Business Women's Breast Cancer Walk was started. The members talked and bounced ideas around, and Marilyn asked for volunteers. Six women said they would start the committee. Marilyn LaPierre, Carolyn Pistolesi, Judy Bush, Mona Allen, Becky Fiacco, and Terry Hitsman-Moses. The committee formed, ideas were had, and now it was time to put it all together and achieve the results they desired, to help women in the Gouverneur area who couldn't afford all the extra expenses brought on when fighting Breast Cancer.
Living in a small community with a population base of about 4,500 residents, no one knew what to expect from the first walk. The committee members all voiced what they thought they'd raise, with the most aggressive goal being $10,000.00. They all decided that whoever had the closest goal to the actual amount raised would be taken out for the dinner of their choice. No committee member was prepared when they raised over $19,500.00 in the first year! Marilyn's dinner choice was crab legs.
The idea of making the walk an annual event was discussed, and decided that the committee needed to create its own organization. With the advice of a local attorney, the application to become a 501(c)3 was completed, bylaws written, and official board members named. Effective March 21, 2003, the official not-for-profit exemption was official.
The mission of the organization: To address the financial needs of individuals who are diagnosed with breast cancer during their recovery or in the process of determining whether they are afflicted with breast cancer. The only criteria to apply, they must live in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, or Lewis counties of northern New York.
As each walk consecutive walk has been planned, it has been easier to get businesses to sponsor the event, walkers to commit to walking, and gifts to be donated for the raffle. As each year has gone by, more and more money has been raised, more walkers participate, and sponsorship has grown. And with continued help from the Gouverneur Business Women's Club, staffing that day was not an issue.
To date (article written in 2010), we have raised over $383,000.00 and helped 228 women fight their personal battle with Breast Cancer. Some women need assistance with their prescription co-pays, while others have no prescription coverage. Some need help for a month or two with their utility bills, while others may need help putting food on the table or paying for transportation to their medical appointments. We provide a gift basket to those we know have been recently diagnosed with Breast Cancer, and these baskets are also available at the local cancer centers throughout the tri-county area we serve. We provide a one-time travel expense check to all who are approved through our program even before any other expenses are discussed.
Few changes have occurred since the GBW Breast Cancer Walk Fund was conceived. What has changed is the growing need for our assistance due to the increase in public awareness of our program and the number of walkers and supporters of this annual event. One thing that has not changed is the dedication of the committee to help make a difference in the lives of those fighting Breast Cancer in our own backyard.
With only one change in the original committee, six women, still working together with individual tasks, work hard to make each walk a little bigger, a little better, and a little more memorable than the last.
In 2014, the "Gouverneur Business Women's Breast Cancer Walk Fund" became "Gouverneur Breast Cancer Fund." A new website was launched to observe the change.
In 2020, the walk was postponed due to Covid-19 virus restrictions. We decided to attempt a "virtual" walk to be held during the months of September and October 2020. The 2021 Walk was cautiously scheduled for October 2, 2021.
In 2022 the very successful Gouverneur Breast Cancer Walk was held on October 1, 2022. Also, in 2022, the organization officially became the Gouverneur Breast and Ovarian Cancer Fund, as the name better aligns with our mission.