FORTY FORT — Candy’s Place, a Wellness Center, is abuzz with preparations for its upcoming Rainbow Walk, the organization’s largest fundraiser.
The two-mile walk, scheduled for May 7 at Kirby Park, provides opportunity for participants to not only enjoy the outdoors and get exercise, but to celebrate the spirit of support and success that defines Candy’s Place.
A recent afternoon provided a chance for several patients who will walk in the event to compare notes, get to know each other and share some laughs.
Ellen Savakinas, of Inkerman, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and is now recovering from surgery, said she has enjoyed participating in a variety of activities at the center. Her favorite is the “Look Good, Feel Good” program, which offers makeovers and new makeup to patients.
Savakinas appreciated the chance to pay attention to her appearance.
“I went home and I just felt better about myself,” she said. “And, I looked better.”
For her, the two-mile trek will be a cakewalk.
“I’m a walker,” she said. “Usually four miles a day.”
Linda Zanelli, of Dallas, is looking forward to donning her sneakers and a positive attitude for the fun walk, celebrating life after a cancer diagnosis.
Zanelli’s team, “Beat Explosion,” has even designed special t-shirts named after an exercise program offered at the center.
One of the reasons she walks is because she knows monies raised will go to a good cause.
Zanelli originally went to the center a little unsure about whether she belonged there, having not been through radiation or chemotherapy.
Center director Chris Ostroski, a breast cancer survivor herself, quickly dispelled any doubt.
Zanelli remembers Ostroski telling her she was in denial, that she had a place at the center for her own benefit and to help others.
Center patient Charlotte Kelley said her oncologist Eric Burdge encouraged her to utilize the services of the center.
In fact, during one appointment, he told her if she didn’t stop at the center, he was going to walk her to it.
Kelley’s favorite part of the center’s activities is the Rainbow Walk, in which over 20 members of her family participate.
“Last year, my daughter saw an advertisement about that walk and said she wanted to do it,” said Kelley. “It brings tears to my eyes to realize that they love and support me so much.”
Kelley’s husband ordered specially designed t-shirts that read, “Time to Tackle Breast Cancer.”
With the walk now becoming a tradition, the family follows its participation in the fun walk with a cookout.
Although Kelley is now open about her breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent mastectomy, that wasn’t always the case.
“You have to deal with cancer on your own terms,” she said.
Patients emphasize the help they receive from family is invaluable, with many family members utilizing services of the center alongside their loved one.
The organization was founded in memory of Candice Vincent-Mamary, who was diagnosed in 1997 with end stage lung cancer.
Although she died six months later, Vincent-Mammary was determined something good would come out of her disease.
Nearly 20 years later, participants at Candy’s Place are continuing to be enriched by her vision and her motto, “no negativity in my aura.”