In order to ‘stomp out breast cancer’ with ‘pink cowboy boots’, Kingston Texas Roadhouse owner Adam Smith ran several promotions at his restaurant to raise money for the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation. In the photograph (right), Miles of Hope Executive Director Pari Forood stands with Mr. Smith and the giant donation check for $1,534.
“We sold t-shirts with pink cowboy boots on them, we accepted donations at all cash registers, we had pin ups on the walls and we gave proceeds from all sales in October all to raise money for Miles of Hope,” explained Mr. Smith.
“We know what Miles of Hope is doing for our area and the people who need help when they are diagnosed with breast cancer. If you are not part of the solution, you don’t realize the extent of the problem. Everyone in our organization kicked in (pun intended!) to help and we were really pleased with the result,” he added.
Miles of Hope funds support services and outreach for people affected by breast cancer within the 8 counties of the Hudson Valley.
“All money raised stays here to help Hudson Valley residents with everything from paying bills while they are in treatment to scholarships for college-bound high school seniors whose lives have been affected by breast cancer,” Ms. Forood said.
“We are humbled and grateful to Adam and all those who have raised money for us throughout 2015 to enable us to achieve our mission.”
When Cathy Benecke and Dana Effron started the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation eleven and a half years ago, they decided to provide services and outreach to people affected by breast cancer within the 8 counties of the Hudson Valley which did not exist: financial help for people in treatment; ancillary therapies like massage, acupuncture, exercise and yoga; a peer to peer hotline for people diagnosed with breast cancer who have questions; and a scholarship program for college-bound high school seniors whose lives have been touched by this disease.
Little did they know that the Foundation would grow to give away over $1.5 million dollars for these programs for their neighbors, friends and colleagues affected by breast cancer. Thousands of people have had their burden lifted by Miles of Hope and thousands have given back in volunteer time, donations and sponsorships of events.
Every year the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation awards scholarships to local high school seniors in the eight counties of the Hudson Valley whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. All of these students have outstanding academic records and extracurricular activities but what sets them apart is the connection to breast cancer in their young lives.
The scholarship applicant is required to write an essay explaining how breast cancer has affected them. Most write poignant and touching compositions about a parent or other relative, but some talk of volunteering for cancer organizations or watching a friend go through the trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis in their family. The essays are very moving and show a level of maturity well beyond the typical 17 year old.
Two funds had been established since the first scholarships were awarded eleven years ago. The Betty (Benecke) Howard Scholarship Fund was established for college-bound high school seniors planning to pursue a career in the healthcare field. “Our family has been devastated by cancer,” explained Miles of Hope Co-Founder Cathy Benecke Varunok. “My sister, Betty, died after a breast cancer diagnosis when she was in her 30s.” In 2015, Julianna Arico from Arlington High School won the Betty Howard Scholarship awarding her $2000 toward her continuing education.
Mrs. Varunok’s family established a second scholarship fund after her brother, Michael, passed away in 2014. “We want to remember Michael by establishing this scholarship fund in his name to help students with a financial contribution to their education,” she explained. This year, Daniel Rannekleiv from Somers High School won the Michael Benecke Scholarship, awarding him $2000 to attend either Penn State or U Mass.
The Benecke Varunok family has now established a third scholarship fund at Miles of Hope, the Betty Benecke Scholarship Fund for a college-bound high school senior whose life has been affected by breast cancer, pursuing a career in the arts.
“My mother was a brave and kind person who had breast cancer,” Mrs. Varunok explained. “All of her children and grandchildren are honoring her memory with this scholarship fund at Miles of Hope.”
Scholarship recipients throughout the years have finished their education and become doctors, nurses, teachers, business people and parents. Each one helped along by an important monetary contribution but also by the support and encouragement of Miles of Hope.
“By helping these young people who have faced hardship and at times devastation, we feel we are recognizing their bravery and resilience,” said Miles of Hope Executive Director Pari Forood. “Scholarship recipients go on to do great things with their lives and we like to think we may be a small part of their success.”
“We are all Team Beachbody coaches. We decided as a team to give back 25% of our commissions from our sales in the month of October. The name of our Team is Dream Team Fitspiration. We all wanted to help support Miles of Hope!” explained Amy McKenna, Orange County coach and trainer.
Good Reasons Dog Treats went pink for October donating $1 to the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation for every Bella bag or tin sold from their retail stores including all Adams Fairacre Farms locations, Hannaford’s Supermarkets and their website www.goodreasons.com. Good Reasons is a private, non-profit dog treat company merging advocacy for the disabled community with a love for animals.
Kelly Apfel, Executive Assistant of Community Based Services which runs Good Reasons in North Salem, NY expressed the company’s commitment to philanthropy and community service: “In October, breast cancer awareness is on everyone’s mind. We were honored to partner with Miles of Hope to help them address the needs of people affected by breast cancer within the 8 counties of the Hudson Valley where we all work and reside.”
“The Good Reason’s website is filled with compelling photos of dogs as well as testimonials of employees working hard to make a difference in our community,” explained Pari Forood, Miles of Hope Executive Director. “So many of our clients as well as volunteers and donors love dogs and we were all thrilled with this partnership.”