The wind was whipping on Thursday morning as parent volunteers hung hundreds of yards of pink ribbon through the sturdy limbs of a stately tree on the campus of Garrison Forest School. On the ribbon were messages of hope, courage, and remembrance, scrawled by students at the independent all-girls school in Owings Mills. The symbolic gesture was just part of the school community’s broad support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which culminates with the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Race for the Cure, this Sunday, October 26, 2014 in Hunt Valley.
Although scores of area groups rally around the cause of eradicating this widespread disease (one in eight women will be diagnosed at some point in their lives), the breadth and depth of GFS’s support proves particularly noteworthy. GFS selects the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure as its one school-wide community service project each year. For the third year in a row, “Team GFS”—comprised of GFS students, alumnae, parents, faculty, staff and friends—has won the race’s Team Challenge for participating schools. This year, Team GFS is pushing to reach a new goal of 500 members and more than $18,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
“As a girls’ school we are aware that breast cancer will likely touch almost every one of our students in some way over the course of their lives, whether it is they or their mothers or sisters or best friends who are diagnosed. I am also personally committed to breast cancer awareness, as both my mother and cousin are survivors, and in both cases, their cancers were first detected in routine mammograms. As a runner myself, I was inspired to organize a ‘Run with Roberts’ during the Komen Fun Run 5K because I wanted to motivate participation among our families in a fun, spirited way that showed solidarity for this important cause,” said Dr. Kim Roberts, head of GFS.
Since coming to GFS this fall, Roberts has quickly jumped on board as one of the school’s lead supporters of the Komen Foundation mission. But for some GFS students, supporting the cause is nothing new.
GFS sophomore Kristine Hilbert ran her first Komen Race for the Cure when she was 9 years old. She was made aware of breast cancer even earlier. Kristine was just three years old when her grandfather, now a breast cancer survivor, was diagnosed with the disease. A top youth fundraiser for the Komen Foundation, she has been raising money for the cause for the past seven years. This year, she is close to her goal of raising $1,500.
Gabi Sorrentino, a junior at GFS, also has made impressive contributions to supporting the Komen Foundation’s mission. She’s had the rare opportunity to become the first youth member of a volunteer medical team assisting in the three-day, 60-mile Komen walk in Washington, D.C. Her father, Dr. Mark Sorrentino, serves as medical director of the event and, in 2012, asked Gabi to join him and the 30-plus group of medical volunteers. Gabi describes the experience as both challenging and exhilarating.
“The first year, we slept on hospital cots on the concourse level in RFK Stadium in the freezing cold, with no heat, and the concourse lights had to be kept on at all times so we slept under bright lights,” Gabi said, adding: “We wake up around 5:30 to 6:00am to a line outside of our tent.”
Despite the less than glamorous working conditions that Gabi and the other medical volunteers endured during the event, it’s the rewarding memories that remain with her. “Two years ago, on my first three-day walk, I had the pleasure of meeting a 17-year-old girl whose mother is a survivor. She asked if I would join her and her mother to walk the last four miles with them. Walking through the finish line with them was amazing,” Gabi said.
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