Walking through Sunset with both heavy hearts and hope, dozens of people who have been affected by cancer as well as cancer survivors gathered at Sunset Park on Saturday, September 17 for the Seventh Annual Maureen Henry Walk of Hope. The event was designed to generate funds for ovarian cancer research, remember those who lost their lives to cancer, and celebrate survivors.
The event was founded by Kim Henry, whose sister Maureen died in 2006 from ovarian cancer. She was 42 years old and the mother of four daughters. After her sister’s death, Henry decided she needed to do something to preserve her memory.
“The reason why I started this walk is that I couldn’t stand idle and let her fight go unnoticed,” Henry said. “So seven years ago, we started the walk. We got family and neighbors together and walked around the park.”
The first Walk of Hope generated a modest turnout of 70 people, two of them cancer survivors. Most of the attendees consisted of family.
This year, 250 people participated in the walk, along with 19 cancer survivors.
“I’m so proud of the growth. I’m not surprised but overwhelmed by the love we receive,” Henry said. “This year was absolutely fantastic. We raised close to $4,000 and that includes sponsors such as Bay Ridge Honda and the American Legion Post 1357. They provided gift bags that we raffled off.” Other raffle prizes included box seats for Mets games and bicycles from Mr. C’s Cycles.
The 19 survivors that were in attendance received gift bags and trophies. Two cancer survivors spoke and shared their story.
The donations go specifically to the Ovarian Cancer Research Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “There are currently no known tests to determine whether a woman has ovarian cancer,” she said. “It goes unnoticed and many times, it is too late.”
By the time Maureen was diagnosed, she had stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. She was diagnosed with the disease after a trip to Six Flags Great Adventure where she went on the rides. “She developed pain that evening and we went to hospital a couple of hours later,” Henry said. “She had a tumor and it showed in the sonogram and x-rays. The doctor suggested that, when a ride went upside-down, the tumor may have shifted and gone down to her spine.”
The tradition continues to be a sad, but helpful one for Henry. “For me, it’s time to release pain and anger for losing my sister and any negativity I feel for her death, I release it that day,” she said. “It’s both therapeutic and emotional.”
The group walks around Sunset Park and conducts a balloon ceremony. “Each balloon is biodegradable and is dedicated in honor of someone who has cancer,” Henry said. “Each person writes a message to someone close to them. We took them to the hill overlooking the Manhattan skyline.”
Besides the ceremony and walk, children’s activities were available, including face painting and a balloon animal maker. Raffles were held for the adults.