At the end of the annual 5km walk organized by Tanger Outlets to benefit the North Fork Breast Health Coalition, a 10-year-old girl walking in memory of her beloved kindergarten teacher Keri Stromski was the first to cross the finish line this morning.
Ava Conrad, a 5th grade student at Pulaski Street School and one of Stromski’s legions of students during her long career as a kindergarten teacher in the Riverhead Central School District, completed the All Front March the other participants.
The annual walk is not a competitive event; the participants are not timed as they make laps around Tangier I and Tangier II, and there is no ribbon to cross at the finish line. There were also no crowds to witness his feat and photographers to take his picture. Without Ava’s mother, Sarah, and her great-aunt, Joyce Boone of Westhampton, the achievement might have gone unnoticed.
This would have suited Ava perfectly, as her mother and aunt coaxed her to pose for photos under the arch of pink balloons where the walk begins and ends at the mall. She was reluctant to cooperate, but she did. Ms. Stromski would have been proud of herself and Ava knew it.
Stromski, who died in April of aggressive metastatic breast cancer at the age of 48, remained the greatest cheerleader of her students until the very end of her career. And, as Ava – and everyone else who has had Stromsky as a teacher in his long career – knows, once a Stromsky pupil, always a Stromsky pupil, no matter how long it has been since they sat in her class or gave her a hug.
Stromski was a strong advocate for those diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, adopting the motto “Stage 4 needs more” to highlight the lack of attention given to people like her. She was diagnosed with stage four disease at the end of 2016 and has fought for awareness of stage four survivors and funding for research into the treatment of stage four breast cancer.
Stromski hated the proliferation of breast cancer “awareness” campaigns – some of which, she said, existed only to fill the coffers of national nonprofits that spend most of what they spend. collect for staff salaries and administration – and very little for the research and support services that matter to people with the disease.
The North Fork Breast Health Coalition, a local group that supports local people struggling with breast cancer and their families, heard Stromski’s message and this year created the Keri Lynn Stromski Stage 4 Research and Grant Fund. A raffle launched in March raised more than $ 22,000 to provide both financial support to research oncologists and assistance to stage 4 patients to help cover unforeseen expenses.
Last year, the organization honored Stromski as the first recipient of the Medal of Honor.
Turnout for today’s 5k walk, the 23rd held at the Riverhead Shopping Center, was a little lower than usual after being forced to go virtual last year due to COVID. But today’s attendees were as enthusiastic as ever.
Kleinfeld Bridal, a New York City bridal boutique, has been a sponsor of NFBHC 5K every year and this year, as in the past, has fielded the biggest team. There were 25 walkers in the Kleinfeld team today.
Michelle Iona, doctor of acupuncture and owner of Healing Points Acupuncture in Riverhead, organizes the Kleinfeld Bridal team because the owners of the company, Mara Urshel and Ronnie Rothstein are “dear friends and clients,” she said. . Urshel was present to participate in the event today.
Riverhead City Councilor Ken Rothwell walked with his wife Debra, a nine-year breast cancer survivor.
Councilor Catherine Kent also finished the walk.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, who is still not fully mobile due to a broken ankle she suffered this spring, was on hand with her training guide dog, River, to cheer on the participants.
MP Jodi Giglio was also present.
A Color Guard from Mattituck / Southold NJROTC conducted the opening ceremonies, which were moderated by News 12 presenter Gianna Pelosi.
A Chinese auction offered prices ranging from Tangier gift cards to a flat-screen HDTV.
Some winners took the opportunity to pay for it in cash. New Suffolk lawyer and bestselling author Regina Calcaterra has won a Vera Bradley rolling suitcase – one of the auction’s grand prizes – and plans to fill it with ‘comfort items’ that a child older host family would appreciate.
“No one thinks about older children. Since I left the foster family on my own and realize that as you get older you are treated differently, I try to focus on them, ”said Calcaterra, whose 2013 memoir on his experiences, “Etched in Sand”, were the best. seller.
Calcaterra said she only bid on cases today. “We’re going to put the basics in there – shampoo, makeup, sweatshirts and blankets,” she said. She works with Ken and Maryanne Birmingham, owners of Case’s Place in New Suffolk on ‘Case’s for Cases’, a project that brings together comfort and essentials for teenagers in foster care and homeless shelters. Crates filled with these items are being distributed to those in need by Birthday Wishes / Long Island, Calcaterra said.
Tangier 5K is a fundraiser for the North Fork Breast Health Coalition, an organization founded in 1998 by Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and her late husband Antonio. The nonprofit coalition provides free services and support to breast cancer patients and survivors in North Fork and works to raise awareness of the issues faced by those facing the disease. It offers free yoga, massage therapy, reflexology and support groups. Her boutique Rita Duva supplies wigs, scarves, prostheses and other items to local breast cancer patients and survivors. The coalition also provides cash grants to patients and survivors to help cover expenses related to treatment or general support.
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Denise Civiletti
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