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Rain can't stop tenth annual Cancer Walk

Marcia Morris (

Published: Thursday, October 8, 2009

PLYMOUTH - Just before Miss New Hampshire, Lindsey Graham, cut the ribbon for the 10th annual Keeping You, Me and Memories Alive (KYMMA) Cancer Walk this weekend, the heavens opened and the deluge began. Undeterred by the challenge, hundreds of walkers and volunteers turned out to the Plymouth State University Athletic Fields for the annual fundraising event that supports the spirit of "neighbor helping neighbor," providing financial and other assistance to adults battling cancer in Plymouth and surrounding towns. As soap bubbles danced over the heads of the damp, but dedicated walkers, the first lap of the walk began with a sense of celebration for the lives of survivors and gratitude for all that KYMMA has done over the past ten years to extend a hand of loving community care and concern to those families in the area that have been affected by the disease.

In honor of the 10th anniversary, a day long celebration was planned that included entertainment, food donated by the Common Man, and guest appearances by Graham, as well as local Survivor celebrity Betsy Bolan, Councilor Ray Burton and others. Plymouth Town Administrator Paul Freitas was on hand for the event, participating in the walk in memory of his mother who he lost to cancer 20 years ago, and State Representative Suzanne Smith also took part in the opening ceremonies.

Plymouth State University President Sara Jayne Steen warmly welcomed the participants. "In spite of the weather, this is a time when we all come together in joy and partnership," said President Steen. "It is wonderful that so many from across the community come together to do something that genuinely matters. All of us either know someone who has survived this disease, or has lost a loved one to cancer. This walk allows us to help local families that have been affected. Thank you for doing something that really makes a difference."

PSU graduate student and cancer survivor Betsy Ayotte, a former KYMMA Book award recipient, helped everyone to find a sense of meaning in the pelting rain. "Driving to the event this morning I was trying to figure out how to put a good spin on this rain," said Ayotte. "I think that maybe it represents the tough journey that people battling cancer have to endure. It's not fun to walk in the rain. It may be uncomfortable and even painful, but you know, we can do it. If you walk long enough in the rain, when the sun comes out again, and it will, it is going to be that much sweeter."

Ayotte spoke movingly about how much it means when community members step up to the plate and offer a helping hand to those struggling with cancer. She said that last year's generous KYMMA book award allowed her to purchase texts for her courses at PSU that she could not have afforded otherwise. "Probably more importantly, it opened my world up to the amazing work of this group of (KYMMA) volunteers... This isn't some enormous, nebulous organization, seeking donations. This work has a face. It's my face and your face. It is a face we all recognize. It is about our neighbors, friends, family and community. Each one of us here today has a poignant story. Each story is more important than any one of us could possibly put into words. So as you walk today, and when you go back out into the world, please remember that the energy you share grows in size as you share it with someone who needs it. What might seem like a small gesture to you, may mean the world to someone else."

Cancer survivor Ashley Wolf, a 22-year-old meteorology student at PSU, joked that she was sorry that there was nothing she could do about the weather. But she was able to volunteer her time and to speak movingly about the joy of being a college student after surviving her battle with childhood Leukemia. Wolf was diagnosed at the age of 16 and had to do much of her high school at home while she went through three years of chemotherapy.

"It is just so great to be in college," said Wolf. "I did get to go back to school for my senior year and so I got to go to the prom and graduation. It made it all seem so meaningful to me. Now, I am able to go to school here and study to become a meteorologist, something that I have wanted to do since I was in the fourth grade. The idea that I am here at PSU after going through so much to get here is amazing to me. I am so glad to be able to help out here today and so grateful that so many people what come out for this event even if it is pouring rain."

Source: Plymouth Record Enterprise (Link opens in a new window.)

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