By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – Virtually, any person you speak to has felt its painful effects.
Whether they have been struggling with a diagnosis of it, lost a loved one to its wrath, or are thankfully a survivor, breast cancer has touched countless lives. As an increasing number of people are unfortunately receiving that unwelcomed diagnosis, the need for critical awareness of, as well as education on, this type of cancer has escalated as well. Funds are in dire need to continue the research to troubleshoot it as well as support those and their families afflicted. And so, it is people like survivor, Maritza Calderon, who continue to do some of that legwork-figuratively and literally. For the seventh year, Calderon, a breast cancer survivor herself, held the “Party in Pink” event, a Zumbathon, at Newburgh’s Armory Unity Center Sunday afternoon, raising that priceless awareness, along with dire funding- $1800- that will be directly channeled for the second year to the Making Strides Campaign of the American Cancer Society. For close to three hours, participants rhythmically and joyfully swayed to an assortment of energetically-charged tunes, as they celebrated all the positives connected to helping such an important, widespread cause.
“Every year, the Zumba community comes together for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as so many have been affected by it in some way, and so many are passionate to find important, needed help for it,” explained Calderon ,also a longtime Zumba instructor, who joined about ten others on the front stage leading the dancing fun Sunday. “We do this to bring some joy and happiness to the breast cancer diagnosis.”
In addition to the heartfelt dancing moves evident all over the gym, there were also several vendors in attendance, selling their merchandise as well as also contributing some of those funds to the day’s cause. Whether it was clothing, soaps, beauty products, or sunglasses, much of it was adorned in the signature pink hue, and the vendors themselves also had a connection to breast cancer. Further, several raffles, offering a variety of gift items, donated by local businesses were offered, raising even more monies. Everywhere you turned, someone had a story, often very personal, that brought them to the event, desperately wanting to give their time and any help they could.
“This is my first year here, as I have done the Walk in Woodbury for Breast Cancer several years; however this year it’s now personal,” said Kori Rogers of the City of Newburgh, whose daughter Monet was diagnosed a couple of years ago at age 34. “She caught it early, in Stage 0, through self-examination, so she was very lucky; however even in Stage 0, she had to get four surgeries, so I’m here today in honor of her and all the women who are affected by it, and I’m excited to raise awareness while having fun and getting exercise.”
Poughkeepsie’s Sharon Brooks, one of the many Zumba Instructors on hand, also revealed her crucial need and sheer passion for being on hand to help her friend Calderon.
“I love giving back to the community, and I know a lot of survivors,” said Brooks.” Early detection is the key as is awareness.”
While out on the dance floor and getting the Zumba dancing component kicked off, Calderon asked dancers to raise their hands on three separate occasions: if they currently had breast cancer, have survived it, and if they had lost someone to it. Nearly every hand in the crowded room went up in response to those queries, tangibly revealing the profound, widespread effects of this condition.
“We need to be aware,” said Calderon about breast cancer. “It’s just so important we get examined often and really take care of ourselves.”