by ANNABEL COOPER
After a difficult 2½ years for fundraising efforts, Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre’s popular annual Breast Cancer Awareness Walk returns on Wednesday, October 12 – celebrating its 26th year with a pre-Covid style event.
This comes after the successful Relay for Life, which saw close to 2,000 people turn out to raise money and show support for sufferers and survivors of all types of cancer back in May.
And these aren’t the only events returning in their post-pandemic glory. The annual raffle is back, the Know Your Lemons education programme is in full swing and the Girls Night In fundraisers remain as popular as ever.
Spearheading these fundraising and awareness events is Azuree Williams, event and programme manager at BCHC. She has dedicated the past seven years of her career to sharing as much information about breast health as she can, as well as highlighting the Equal Access Fund to the community.
“The Equal Access Fund is where all of our fundraising dollars go. Every event ties in to some form of fundraising. I’m constantly reminding the community of what the Equal Access Fund means,” she explained.
Thanks to the Fund, anyone who needs any of BCHC’s services, even if they are uninsured or underinsured, will receive the service they need.
“They don’t have to worry about co-pay or coming up with the funds to pay for the service. We subsidise their service whether it’s radiation or mammogram. We don’t turn anyone away, no matter what their health insurance status is.”
Despite the lack of recent in-person events, Ms Williams hasn’t exactly had her feet up. Instead, she moved as much as she could online and continued to support the many people who still did their bit by walking anyway or hosting their own virtual events.
But, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2022, in-person events are back and BCHC has set an ambitious fundraising goal of $200,000, which it hopes to raise through the walk, raffle and other third-party events.
Here is what you need to know about what you can do, and who is making it happen:
Breast Cancer Awareness Walk
Starting from Barr’s Bay Park at 6pm on Wednesday, October 12, there are two walk route options around the City of Hamilton: 3K and 5K.
It has been sponsored by BF&M throughout its 26 years.
“We’re pretty passionate about supporting the event because breast cancer remains the number one cancer affecting women in Bermuda,” explained Brenda Dale, associate head of wellness at the insurer. “One in eight women will be diagnosed in their lifetime.”
Ms Dale is joined by Krystle Rattaray, BF&M’s marketing and events manager, and Evelyn Garrafa, executive assistant, life and health who form the working committee and work closely with Ms Williams and significant numbers of staff from both BF&M and BCHC, as well as many other volunteers.
BF&M staff also hand out the walk packs, act as marshals and distribute other giveaways such as water and fruit.
Registration costs $35. To sign up, go to https://runsignup.com/Race/Info/BM/Hamilton/BFMBreastCancerAwarenessWalk
School Spirit Award
Held in conjunction with the Breast Cancer Awareness Walk, the School Spirit Award is also sponsored by BF&M.
“This allows us to connect with schools around the education of breast cancer,” Ms Dale explained. “The schools buy in and do a lot of education. They also support us by coming out for the walk.”
All schools are invited to raise funds for breast health awareness through age-appropriate activities within the school community, such as denim days and bake sales. Middle and high schools can also register School Spirit teams for the annual walk. For safety reasons, primary schools are not allowed to do the official walk but may host their own walk at school or the children may walk with their family.
Photographs of their “School Spirit”, funds and pledge forms must be e-mailed to [email protected] by Friday, October 28, and the winning schools are awarded a plaque and monetary gift.
While still reliant on a team of dedicated volunteers to sell these, anyone wanting a chance at winning a Travel Edge voucher, electric scooter or swanky hotel stay, among other prizes, can also buy the annual raffle tickets online: https://www.cancer. bm/events–calendar/events-calendar/the-raffle-is-back. The draw will take place in the BCHC parking lot at 12pm on Monday, October 31.
Girls Night In
These fundraisers are smaller events that people usually host at home. They are organised and run by individuals and, said Ms Williams, it’s usually “pot luck style” where people “get together and play games, some even have walks. It’s up to the individual to tailor it to whatever the groups’ interests are.”
Each attendee is encouraged to make a donation and BCHC provides goody bags, which include useful branded items as well as breast health information.
Know Your Lemons
Introduced to Bermuda in 2019, this is a global movement founded in the United States by breast cancer specialist Dr Corinne Ellsworth-Beaumont. The educators are known as ‘lemonistas’ and Ms Williams is the ‘lead lemonista’ in Bermuda, giving all the Know Your Lemons presentations to whoever would like them, for free.
“The focus is knowing what the 12 symptoms of breast cancer can be and the importance of self-examination so you are aware of your own breast health if there are any changes,” she explained.
She has given presentations to corporations, community groups and church groups. She’s done lunch and learn sessions as well as evening presentations.
Is it working?
“Definitely!” said Ms Williams. “When I am at events and different community outreach activities, the feedback from women is amazing. They say, ‘I get my mammogram every year’, ‘I talk to my doctor’.
“Part of our messaging is prevention, early detection, getting your screenings, having your regular check-ups, not waiting if something seems wrong or out of the norm.
“The last few years, I’m hearing more and more from women in the community that that is what they’re doing. The awareness is definitely there.”