Aimee Tabor is among the many Sandy Hook parents making new connections and friendships since 12/14. She is among a group of roughly a dozen women in town who have formed The Sandy Hook Sole Sisters team, combining efforts with New York residents to do the October two-day, 39-mile Avon Breast Cancer walk and fundraising event in New York City.
The story began in May, when friendships with a group of mothers in Rye, N.Y., began with an invitation to a day of healing.
According to the team’s website, “Around Mother’s Day of this year, a group of moms from Rye, NY invited the moms of Sandy Hook Elementary School to spend the day with them at Rye Beach. We had the most wonderful day.
“Bonds formed quickly and hugs and tears were shared,” the page continues. Of the many connections made that day was the realization that mothers in both communities faced breast cancer diagnoses.
Rye resident Sandy Samberg, founder of Sole Ryeders, and Sandy Hook resident Adrian Dandrea, who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and her friend Kat Young “came up with the idea to join forces” and do the 39-mile Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in New York City, October 19–20, as one team, the website explains. “Two communities are now working together to help support a cause that has impacted both communities and so many others.” The experience allows participants “to give back and help make the world a better place.”
The two teams are now fundraising and gearing up for the cancer walk next month.
“Doing the Avon walk with the ladies from Rye who had extended the hand of friendship when we needed it most, just fit so perfectly,” Ms Tabor wrote in a recent e-mail.
“I’ve always wanted to do it, but it seemed too overwhelming to do solo,” her note continued.
Working as part of a team to fight cancer is personal for her. She has seen “too many friends and colleagues face this battle,” and has had her own scare after a baseline mammogram was “flagged as suspicious,” she wrote. But it was just a scare and she considers herself “among the lucky.”
As she underwent testing, she wrote, “I remember the waiting being excruciating, and spending hours on breast cancer support forums.” Ms Tabor found “a host of strangers, all willing to be friends. Women united in a journey that no one wanted to embark upon, but everyone seemed determined to help carry one another through.”
She said it parallels much of her 12/14 experience.
“Those few minutes in that parking lot waiting to see my son were the longest of my life. Again, I walked away among the lucky,” she wrote.
Since then she has discovered that there is “comfort and safety in these new friendships,” in town and elsewhere. “And every act of kindness and compassion is as much altruistic as it is self-serving. It’s constructive and empowering and it can ease some of the helplessness and yes, even some of the guilt.”
Now, the Sandy Hook Sole Sisters are a team with the Sole Ryders and “no one is alone,” she wrote.
“Besides the physical benefits, it’s emotionally cathartic to fight for a cause we believe in and that has affected so many — including several just within our small team,” she said.
Through A Survivor’s Eyes
Kristin Kinsey, a member of Sandy Hook Sole Sisters, is a breast and thyroid cancer survivor. “I have had my share,” she said.
Despite a broken toe, which she hopes won’t be too much trouble in October, and although she is “not one for porta potties or port-a-showers, I guess that shows my commitment,” she looks forward to the cancer walk and fundraiser.
“Everybody thinks they are giving money to a friend to do a walk,” she said, but for her, cancer research and advancements in treatment significantly increased her chances of survival. Ten years ago “they did not have a cure for [my form of breast cancer]; it’s because of research and funding and it’s through these walks and millions of people giving money.”
Fundraising and cancer walks “help me to continue to be a mother, a cousin, a friend.” To those who support events such as the upcoming Avon walk, Ms Kinsey said, “You spared my family heartache, because of you I continue to live, and you don’t know how beautiful it is until you face losing it.
“You don’t realize what it means. It’s a good cause, but people don’t realize really how much — you spared my life,” she said.
As a survivor, Ms Kinsey said, “I could easily do the walk and I want to give money and save a life, but all these people that did not have cancer who are doing it — it makes me feel so good that they want to help out, so this walk is so much more than a walk.”
Ms Kinsey is “grateful to everybody who has put time and effort into this and I feel proud to be part of this community and the Rye community.”
Recalling the day she spent with the Rye mothers, she said, “Those women, they are angels on earth.” After her visit, she said, “You go thinking you will meet strangers, and come home and they are friends and they gave us such a great gift of friendship.” She is also happy to be part of the Avon walk. “It’s nice to be part of that team, and now we can pay it forward and help other people.”
Sandy Hook Sole Sisters Team Leader Kathleen Young has known “quite a few” people diagnosed with cancer. One friend passed away but many have survived, she said. Her involvement with Avon “gives me hope” if she or someone close to her is ever affected.
“There is help out there, and I am much more aware of how critical early detection is,” she said. The Avon walk “gives me hope and takes away some of the fear if it comes closer to me personally, there is tremendous support and optimism around.”
Regarding her interaction with friends who have gone through cancer treatments, she said, “Avon provides that support” for those who may not know “what to do or where to start.”
The Sandy Hook Sole Sisters so far “has been an amazing experience,” Ms Young said. She is “very proud to be on a team that will be walking in October.” Thinking about close friends currently fighting cancer, she referred to this event as a call to action, and “why so many of us are involved in the Sandy Hook team.”
The Sole Ryeders
Founded in 2007, Sole Ryeders & Friends is a community-based charitable organization that provides and supports cancer-related programs.
The name Sole Ryeders stems from founding members — residents of Rye — and from annual participation in the 39-mile Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. The group, which has included more than 200 passionate and dedicated individuals since inception, has raised roughly $1 million. Also see Avonwalk.org.
To support the Sandy Hook Sole Sisters team this year visit Firstgiving.com/fundraiser/sole-ryeders/sandyhooksolesisters.
Team members include Satra Arokium, Audra Barth, Kim Bepko, Stephanie Bush, Christine Calabrese, Adrian Dandrea, Rena Estes, Pam Fehrs, Annie Haddad, Beth Hagarty, Tracy Hoekenga, Kristin Kinsey, Jennifer Krucker, Heidi Werner Ruggerio, Aimee Tabor, Mai Tran, Adele Unger, Desiree Vaiuso, and Kathleen Young.
An October 1 fundraising event, the Sandy Hook Sole Sisters Night at My Place Restaurant, is planned. For guests who mention the team, the restaurant will donate 20 percent of sales. On October 11 will be the Dig Pink Volleyball Tournament at Newtown High School.
The team’s sponsors and supporting companies include Sotheby’s Realty, Boehringer Ingelheim, General Reinsurnace, Bead of Roses of Newtown, New Balance Store of Bethel, Monster Golf of Danbury, and My Place Restaurant of Newtown.