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Miles of Hope raises money for its programs from individual and corporate donations, as well as through annual sporting events such as the Hoops for Hope women's basketball tournament (March 11), a Goals for Hope soccer tournament (August 4), and the Community Walk for Breast Cancer (September 30). "Our events are not just fundraising," explains Forood. "It's a giant support group, a solidarity movement. Our walks get 800 to 900 people, all there to honor someone who has breast cancer. Everybody feels that collective love and support."
The events also inspire people to get out and exercise, which plays a role in keeping cancer at bay and in improving the outcomes of those already affected. "Just three years ago, researchers said you can reduce your breast cancer risk by adopting a healthy lifestyle. This is new—no one ever said that before," says Forood. "We used to think, if one in eight women get breast cancer, then we're sitting ducks. But we can do something about it. I'm begging everybody to eat more fruits and vegetables." Also essential: getting regular mammograms. If you can catch breast cancer at Stage 1 or 2, the survival rate is well over 90 percent.
Ritter, the seven-year survivor who is a runner as well as a dancer, feels certain that her active, healthy lifestyle translated into a better outcome from her Stage 3 cancer. "I believe that's why I stayed so strong," she says. Ritter also found a buoy in the outpouring of support from family and friends. "I had people coming out of the woodwork to call me and text me, make food for me, and just be with me when I couldn't physically leave the house. It was totally uplifting and the best part of what happened." Her life these days is back to normal, and her trials with breast cancer are a receding dream. "I like to say there was a before and after, and the after is just as good as the before."
Miles of Hope's "Hoops for Hope" basketball tournament will take place on March 11 in the McCann Recreation Center at Marist College in Poughkeepsie.