On Sunday, the Long Island League to Abolish Cancer held its first walkathon At Marjorie J. Post Park with a goal in mind, to raise $10,000 for cancer research. By the time the event was over this dedicated group of women raised $22,200.
LILAC was first started in 1967 by a group of ten women whose mission was to raise funds for direct contributions to cancer research in the NY metropolitan area. In 1968 Lena Gaynes, who is the current president, lost her six year old daughter Alice, to cancer and years later her grandson Adam age 12 died of a brain tumor. The organization’s chapter name was amended in honor of Alice.
According to Gaynes, “The organization buys research equipment for the hospitals based on the requests we receive each year, we meet in May and in June they receive their grants.” On average they contribute $35,000 to $40,000 a year with one year being $60,000.
”LILAC is an all volunteer organization with no paid employees, no offices, no expenditures," said Evelyn Rose, the program's Vice President. "We will even walk a piece of mail over to somebody so we don’t pay postage.” More than 95% of the money LILAC raises is donated directly to the hospitals to help combat cancer, Rose said.
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto , who offered the Park, attended the event. He had high praise for the organization saying they have a “pleasant and constructive relationship” with the Town.
Venditto's own father was stricken with cancer in the 1960’s and he described the contrast between what his family went through in the ‘60’s compared to now.
“All during my father’s illness we never spoke the word cancer. The world darkened, people looked at us like some plague struck our house," he said.
"There was a total lack of awareness and total lack of communication. Thanks to the efforts of the members of LILAC, people who persevere, people who endure, they have created awareness. They have made it easier to talk about. Obviously the methods of treatment, early detection have made the quality of cancer patients so much better, but just the mere fact that we are all out here in a park free to say the word cancer, talk about experiences, share experiences so you don’t feel alone and isolated is so important. That’s the reason why I give my park to LILAC. for moments like this. I consider this a battle on the war on cancer and I think it is a winning battle. The more times we do this the sooner we are going to win the war on cancer.”
As the walkers took their places at the starting line Gaynes wistfully noted that next year her daughter, Alice would have been 50-years-old.
“If she had been diagnosed today she probably would have been alive," she said. "We don’t have a cure yet but we have so many diagnostics techniques, medications, and treatments. It’s so much better now, that a lot of people are living longer. Even if there isn’t a cure, which I hope there will be in my lifetime, I feel that at least I am helping people live longer and happier lives.”
To learn more about LILAC , see the recent grants or to make a donation go to their website.