Our Leadership

Cathy Benecke Varunok

Cathy was born in Brooklyn and moved to the Hudson Valley in 1991. She graduated from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in 1985 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Occupational Therapy. She received her Master’s Degree in Humanistic and Multicultural Education from SUNY New Paltz in 2001. Cathy has been providing Occupational Therapy services for the past 23 years in various areas of rehabilitation and is currently practicing Occupational Therapy at a Hudson Valley Cancer Center as a breast cancer specialist.

Cathy has been an advocate for breast cancer awareness since 1992 when her 36-year-old sister succumbed to the disease and her mother was first diagnosed with the disease. She has logged hundreds of miles for breast cancer walks nationwide for various organizations, including three Avon 3-day walks. After her experience with these walks, and her experience as a health care provider to people with breast cancer, Cathy dreamed of a local organization to raise funds for people dealing with breast cancer in the Hudson Valley area. The Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation has helped her to realize these dreams.

Cathy is the recipient of the BMW Local Hero Award, Yoplait Champion Award by Yoplait/Self Magazine and Susan G. Komen and the New York State Occupational Therapy Association Merit of Practice Award.

Cathy is married to Peter Varunok. They have three children, Nicholas, Katey and Mikayla and live in the town of LaGrange.

Dana Effron

Dana has been involved in the Hudson Valley community since moving here in the 1970s. She has served on several local boards including the Dutchess Arts Council (now Arts Mid-Hudson), having served as Fund Chair and Vice President, the New York Stage & Film Hudson Valley Advisory Board, the American Red Cross, the Dutchess Golf & Country Club Women’s board, the Jewish Federation of Dutchess County, Temple Beth-El, the Jewish Community Center, Hospice of Dutchess County and the Mid-Hudson Hebrew Day School. Dana has also been a volunteer at Vassar Brothers Medical Center and the Dyson Center for Cancer Care. Along with her husband Ira in 2005, Dana received the Family of the Year Award from Family Services, the BMW Local Hero Award, the Marist College President’s Award, and in 2009, Dana and Ira were honored by the Community Foundation of Dutchess County. Most recently, Dana and Cathy Varunok received the inaugural Spirit of Empowerment award from the Southern Dutchess Chamber of Commerce, and Dana was selected by Hudson Valley Magazine for their issue recognizing 35 people who have left a legacy to the Hudson Valley.

In 1995, Dana’s attention turned to breast cancer charities after she was diagnosed with the disease. After participating in many events to support breast cancer research and education, Dana became interested in developing a Foundation for the support and education of breast cancer patients, survivors and their families in the Hudson Valley. That dream came true in 2003 when she and her friend Cathy Varunok co-founded the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation.

Her family includes her husband Ira, her children Sam, Savannah, Jonathan, and Jaci, and her grandchildren Ziva, Silas, Nomi, and Ariel. Dana and her husband Ira currently live in South Florida.

Pari Forood

Executive Director
Pari has been the Executive Director of Miles of Hope since its inception in 2004. She handles all administrative aspects of the foundation including fundraising, public relations and media, and review and research of grant applications. Along with the Event Administrator she oversees five Miles of Hope annual fund-raising events: Annual Spring Brunch, Goals for Hope Soccer Tournament, Community Walk for Breast Cancer, and Miles of Hope Day as well as other smaller events. Prior to joining Miles of Hope, Pari was a community activist and volunteer at various charities for ten years, chairing committees and boards of directors and serving as a trustee while she raised her two daughters. Ms. Forood has been honored with awards from various organizations including the Dutchess Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Dutchess Arts Council, Westchester County Executive, Putnam County Business Council and most recently, she was chosen as the Connecticut Healthcare Volunteer of the Year by the Hartford Business Journal. She started her professional career after graduating from Vassar, working in the US House of Representatives for Congressman Hamilton Fish, Jr. of NY and has worked on NY State Legislature and Congressional campaigns, most notably the US Senate campaign of Congressman Rick Lazio in 2000. She has a Master’s in Public Administration with a concentration in Non-Profit Management and her book, The Gates of Light about her tenure in Washington was published in May 2015. Her second book, The Goodwill Mission, about a high school singing group on a clandestine goodwill mission to Poland for the CIA in 1982 was published in 2023. pariforood.com

Jen Oppenheim

Development Associate & Events Administrator
Jen has been the Development Associate and Events Administrator since 2013.  She coordinates all Miles of Hope events and serves on all Events committees working closely with volunteers and community organizations in fundraising and awareness efforts.

Born and raised in Hyde Park, Jen has lived in the Hudson Valley most of her life. She is a graduate of Stony Brook University and a former social worker. She is an active community volunteer, former East Fishkill Recreation Commission Chair, Co-founder and director of the East Fishkill basketball league, and assistant director of the East Fishkill Children’s Camp. Jen was a volunteer with Miles of Hope as a member of the Hoops for Hope committee for eight years prior to taking an official position with the foundation.

Jen, her husband Bill, and their three children, Hannah, Olivia, and Samuel reside in Hopewell Junction.

Lisa McHugh

Lisa, CFO/Bookkeeper since 2012, processes all financial transactions of the Foundation.  She serves on the Financial and Audit Committees of the Board of Directors, working with the committee members, evaluating the foundation’s financial statements.

Lisa is from Westchester originally and graduated from SUNY Cobleskill. She has an Accounting Degree from Mercy College. Prior to joining Miles of Hope, she was the CFO of a small pharmaceutical company and prior to that, an Internal Auditor for Equitable Life (formerly MONY Insurance Co.). She is an active volunteer in the community and participated in the Goals for Hope Event.

Lisa, her husband, John, and their 2 daughters, Erin and Melissa, reside in Hopewell Junction.


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Contact Us

  • By Phone:845-264-2005
  • To make a donation by check please make it out to Miles of Hope BCF and send it to us at:
  • Miles of Hope BCF
    P.O. Box 405
    Lagrangeville, NY 12540
  • Email Usinfo@milesofhope.org