The purpose of this noncompetitive walk, which begins at 8:30 a.m. in the mall's parking lot on Backus Avenue, is to raise awareness for breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second-most common type of cancer among women in the United States, with about 178,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
"This event is a way of celebrating breast cancer survivors, educating women about the importance of early detection and prevention and raising money to fund lifesaving research and support programs to further the progress against this disease," said Christian Meagher of the American Cancer Society.
Last year, about 600 walkers participated in this event, which raised $42,000.
For Nielsen, a community partner for the American Cancer Society, this event really hits home. She'll be walking to honor a close friend, Michelle O'Donnell, who passed away from breast cancer in August after a 15-year fight.
"I've known Michelle my whole life. She went to school with my parents," said Nielsen, a Bethel resident.
According to Nielsen, O'Donnell had been very active in spreading the word about breast cancer. She was a legislative ambassador for the American Cancer Society, participated in many walks and events in support of the cause, and was a volunteer for Ann's Place: The Home of I Can, a Danbury-based nonprofit agency that provides cancer support services.
"Michelle was very strong person who touched the life of everyone she met," said Nielsen. "She taught me a lot about what we should value in life and about making the most of our relationships."
Angell, a Bethel resident, will be walking to honor her mother, Mary Angell, a recent breast cancer survivor.
Mary Angell was told by her physicians that if she had developed breast cancer 10 years ago, it wouldn't have been detected as early as it was.
"As a result, the lump would have been bigger and harder to treat," said Kristen Angell.
With improved screening technology, the machines used to detect breast cancer can now do so when the cancer is still at a very curable stage.
"My mother is walking proof that the money raised through breast cancer events such as this one successfully works toward saving lives," said Angell.
Kristen Angell was so overcome with emotion at what her mother went through that she wrote "My Mother, My Hero," a poem that's hanging up in the Praxair Cancer Center at Danbury Hospital. Angell will be reading her poem at the breast cancer walk.
"In a situation that can make someone feel powerless to help their loved one, writing this poem was my way of doing something to support and honor my mother," said Angell.
Madan, a recent breast cancer survivor, believes that there is strength in numbers and that no one should go through the experience of breast cancer alone. She'll be walking as part of a team of 10 breast cancer survivors.
"This walk symbolizes the special bond that everyone who is affected by breast cancer has with one another," said Madan, a Danbury resident.
When Madan went to her first chemotherapy session, she met another woman in the waiting room who was scheduled to receive chemotherapy alongside her. The two women quickly hit it off and became "chemo buddies." From then on, they scheduled future chemotherapy appointments together.
"Having shared an experience like this one, the two of us became close friends and now attend many breast cancer support functions together," said Madan. "No one ever expects that this will happen to them, but if it does, being part of a support group with others who are going through the same thing will really help you."
At 8 a.m., prior to the walk, a complimentary breakfast will be provided to breast cancer survivors from the Greater Danbury area. From 8 to 10:30 a.m., information will be available on the American Cancer Society and on Ann's Place: The Home of I Can.
Registration for the walk is at 8 a.m. Sunday. The event will be held rain or shine.