COVID-19 has presented challenges to victims with compromised immune systems. For the American Cancer Society (ACS), it’s a particularly dire threat to cancer patients and survivors alike, given how much more vulnerable they are to the novel coronavirus. According to the ACS, between 70 to 80 percent of inquiries to the organization’s 24-hour live hotline and chat service (800-227-2345 and cancer.org) in March and April were related to COVID-19 and cancer. For Senior Manager of Community Development Katie Goepfrich Schafer, the pandemic has made it all the more difficult to raise awareness and funds for the cause. Not only has she had to decamp from her Hauppauge office to her home in Hicksville, but she’s been doing it all while she and her husband care for their five-month-old daughter Charlie and pug Oscar.
“Being that loud voice in a very large room of loud voices is definitely a challenge,” she said. “With the state being shut down, we’ve been forced to shut down all of our events that bring in income in the first half of the year. We’re fighting for donations, which we really need. Cancer patients need us more than ever right now. Trying to navigate their diagnosis, they’re not able to get certain treatments. And really, just continuing our fight to fund the research that needs to happen, so that we can have cures in the future. We’re continuing to get the word out as to why people need to still stay involved in this and still support the American Cancer Society.”
One of the ACS’s largest initiatives is the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, which is slated to be held on Oct. 18 at Jones Beach and will be marking its 27th year. Corporate involvement is significant. Among the major names are Stop & Shop, Stony Brook University, Northwell Health, Catholic Health Services of Long Island, NYU Winthrop, Nature’s Answer, OCLI, GEICO, PSEG Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk County governments, Local 1500, Local 342, Garden OBGYN, Suffolk Community College, Canon, MSC Industrial Supply, NYSUT and Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. With roughly 60,000 people participating every year, it’s the largest event of event of its kind in the country. But with the impact COVID-19 is making and its stringent social distancing requirements, the ACS is having to make adjustments in the new normal that people are having to navigate around the world. It’s a reality Goepfrich Schafer acknowledges.
“Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is so important to this community,” she said. “It’s just how we’re being creative with our partners to keep this engagement going. We did make the decision to have our kick-off go to a virtual platform in August, just to be proactive in that capacity. We want to make sure that we’re still relevant and enable cancer survivors to share their stories, while making sure people feel connected to all this. We’re still on pace to do that.”
The Making Strides kickoff is a 45-minute program normally attended by about 800 people at the Crest Hollow Country Club. They consist of Long Island leaders from the political and corporate worlds, along with team leaders, people interested in getting involved and cancer survivors. Survivor stories are shared and the ACS’s mission is highlighted along with the impact it’s having, the progress being made and how people can get involved. As someone whose 10-year involvement with the ACS has its roots in the loss of loved ones to cancer, Goepfrich Schafer wants to stress the importance of this event happening.
“The main point for all of this is to still have hope, still fight cancer and have people know they can start fighting cancer by registering for the walk,” she said. “I think people should know that we’re still planning this and we want them to get involved, so we want them to register.”
Visit www.makingstrideswalk.org to find out more about the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.