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Organizer of ‘Pink in the Park’ reflects on this year’s breast cancer event in Whitestone

Oct. 10, 2023 By Iryna Shkurhan

For the fourth annual Pink in the Park Ribbon Dedication and Walk in Whitestone’s Francis Lewis Park, hundreds gathered in solidarity with survivors and to remember the lives lost to breast cancer. 

“This year by far was the biggest event, and it started very small,” said Dorian Mecir, one of the organizers of the event held on Sunday Oct. 1, which marked the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month. 

It was put together by the same women who make up Friends of Francis Lewis Park, a group dedicated to maintaining the park with weekly cleanups and walks. Pink in the Park featured a walk, live music and ribbon dedication to breast cancer survivors. Not only was the turnout more significant this year, it was also more emotional.

The organizers of the event are no strangers to Francis Lewis Park in Whitestone. Photo courtesy of Friends of Francis Lewis

The chairwoman and one of the organizers of the event, Irene Rama, is a breast cancer survivor who spoke about her battle at the event. She came up with the idea of having survivors share their stories last year, and this year invited two other survivors to join her. 

But during the event this year, others voluntarily and vulnerably shared their stories when the floor opened. One survivor even shared that her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer a year after her. Others recounted receiving their diagnosis with their kids still in elementary school. 

“The survivors speaking were so poignant and emotional, you could hear a pin drop. It was just so moving,” said Mecir, who has a family history of breast cancer. 

Irene Rama was one of the speakers of the event. Photo courtesy of Friends of Francis Lewis

Mecir says that Rama, who she describes as “wonder woman,” did much of the “heavy lifting” of putting the event together, including engaging the community and getting survivors to share their stories. 

Another volunteer, Kim Calbrese, handled the work permits, logistical planning and coordinating with sponsors. Other volunteers included Connie Davis, Doreen Ellis, Rajka Hanovic, Entela Kodra, Ann Denicker and Elenie Rama. Over a dozen volunteers from local high schools and one middle school also completed their community service hours by helping out at the event. 

Several sponsors helped contribute to the event, including Woman’s Club of Malba which provided the refreshments, Whitestone’s Tulum Party Boutique provided all the balloons and A&S Whitestone Nursery gifted the ribbons. The ‘2 Complicated’ band also volunteered to play uplifting songs. 

The event was a sea of pink in honor of breast cancer awareness. Photo courtesy of Friends of Francis Lewis

“A lot of people were grateful to have it right in their community,” said Mecir, pointing out that other popular breast cancer events across the city and beyond may be too out of the way and lack that community feel, which is essential. 

They also sold raffles and were able to raise $500 to sponsor Rama who will be walking in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, through the American Cancer Society, at Jones Beach on Oct. 15. 

“For the month of October, may we take time to honor all of the survivors, for their strength and fortitude to push through. The pink ribbons on the fence will serve as a reminder of their battle,” said Councilwoman Vickie Paladino, who attended the event and shared remarks. 

Each pink satin ribbon across the park has the name of someone affected by breast cancer written on it. A white tulle, reminiscent of angel wings, around it indicates that the person died. 

The event was emotional for many. Photo courtesy of Councilwoman Vickie Paladino

Many of the ribbons still remain in Francis Lewis Park and will be up for the remainder of the week. The Parks Department was cooperative in allowing the organizers to place the ribbons on trees and fences across the park, and allow them to leave them up for two weeks so those who did not attend the event could have a chance to see. 

“This year we really realized the need for community outreach,” added Mecir. “There is a high demand and need for breast cancer outreach and communication in our community. People want to speak about it. People want to be around survivors, people want to see that there’s hope.”

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