The kids from the London School of Dance spend most days dancing, but on Oct. 1 they were walking to help cure cancer.
They were part of the CIBC Run for the Cure, organized by the Canadian Cancer Society which began at Nathan Philip Square with an opening celebration, a warm-up, awards and moments of silence.
Everyone in the group they call Dancers Against Cancer, consisting of children who are dancers at the school along with staff and parents, has lost someone to cancer, according to school director Kristeen Hamilton.
“We have lost loved ones to cancer,” Hamilton said. “Some of our people are in remission at this point right now, and we have decided to come together as a group to give our support.”
The group has been participating in the event for 16 years and has also created a fundraiser to donate further to the event, according to Hamilton.
“The money that our group is donating is not a lot, but every little bit counts,” Hamilton said.
Aggie Palmeri has been attending the event since 2009 with the group, The Pink Divas, started by her sister-in-law’s sister, Franca Gismondi, who was battling cancer at the time.
“We started doing the run for her, with her, every year. And then, sadly, my sister-in-law, Rosa Palmieri, who is Franca’s sister, also developed breast cancer,” she said. “So now we had two reasons to be walking and to try and raise money for this cause so other families don’t have to go through this.”
Franca Gismondi passed away after battling for 10 years. However, Rosa is a survivor and has been cancer free for 10 years.
Daniela Salome, a 28-year-old social media specialist, decided to run to support her friend’s fundraiser and her mom.
“My mom caught an early stage of cancer five years ago and she managed to get surgery and beat it,” Salome said.
“My mom is also running a 21K marathon today in New York, and she runs for her health, and I felt that it would be nice if we ran on the same day,” Salome said. “Different places and runs, but still important.”
The Run is the largest volunteer-led initiative in Canada for the breast cancer cause and the money goes mostly to research and support services, said run director Erica Igreja. A CIBC employee, she has been part of the event for the past six years, either running or volunteering.
“One area [being funded] is changing research and contributing to improvements in the detection, the diagnosis, and the treatment,” Igreja said. “Another thing that it goes towards is support services.”
The support services take people to their cars for chemo appointments since some people don’t have any help. The Canadian Cancer Society has volunteers that they coordinate that will take people to their chemo appointments or other doctors’ appointments, Igreja said.
“There is an online community called CancerConnection with caregivers for the people who need support throughout the cancer process,” Igreja said. “It’s very accessible and easy to apply to.”
Living longer, fuller lives
Andrea Seale, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society, told the crowd at Run for the Cure that last year almost 30,000 people were diagnosed with breast cancer in Canada.
“Your support today is helping them live longer, fuller lives,” Seale said.
Seale also spoke of researchers who have been working to design a system to make cells in the immune system recognize breast cancer tumour cells. This can lead to the development of a vaccine that can train the immune system to attack proteins on breast cancer cell, she said.
“This research could dramatically change the prognosis for people living with metastatic breast cancer. And in the future, it could mean replacement for some chemotherapy treatments,” Seale said.
Toronto mayor Olivia Chow said she was running in the event this year because it’s important that we all come together to find a cure to defeat cancer.
“My hope is that more funds raised would turn to good research to support people that have cancer or loved ones that have cancer,” Chow said.
About 8,000 runners took part in the Toronto event and raised more than $2 million this year, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. It also raised more than $14.5 million in Canada.
Running for healing
Maria Igreja, Erica’s mom, is a cancer survivor who’s been participating in the event since 2018. She found out she had breast cancer a couple of days after helping with the Hope Tent, a special tent at the run for survivors and anyone who is going through breast cancer, at the event last year.
She had the tumour removed, but since her cancer was aggressive and could come back, she also did had chemotherapy and radiation. Early this summer she found out she is a survivor.
“I want other victims to know that there is hope that breast cancer doesn’t always mean it’s a death sentence. Don’t give up hope, keep the faith and hopefully everything will get better with time,” Igreja said.
Nanci Oliveira, a childhood assistant, had ovarian cancer in 2009, and the cancer came back in 2022.
This was the first time she participated in the run, after finding out about it through social media and advertisements.
“I want to give my support and participate in the run,” Oliveira said. “I feel touched because I know how hard it is to have cancer.”
“This run is to make me feel stronger than before,” Oliveira said. “Have faith and keep trying, just like I do.”