Making Strides: Senses of Making Strides bring on strong memories

Kyle Russ with his mom, Kathi. Courtesy
Kyle Russ with his mom, Kathi. Courtesy

At age 9, I renamed “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” to “Making Slaves” Against Breast Cancer because of all the hard work and time required to make it successful.

I initially became a volunteer for the American Cancer Society because a close family friend, Trish, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 29.

When she first received the diagnosis, I was too young to do much to help her. However, for the past 12 years, I have helped the American Cancer Society by participating in this event by volunteering my time, effort and ideas. This event raises money and awareness in the fight against breast cancer. It is a five-mile walk and in our community of 40,000 people, 5,000 participate. New Hampshire raises the highest per capita of all Making Strides events in the U.S., and the Concord walk is the largest in New Hampshire both in participants and fundraising. Each year for the past three years, over half a million dollars has been raised by this event for breast cancer research, programs and services of the American Cancer Society. One of these programs is called Road to Recovery; volunteers drive patients to chemotherapy and radiation appointments. I am proud to be involved.

Road to Recovery is a crucial program because often after cancer treatments, patients are not able to drive themselves. Ruth was one of my favorite passengers. I remember being 4 years old with my mother and pulling up to Ruth’s house to take her to her doctor’s appointment. Her mailbox was purple. Her door was purple. Ruth’s house smelled like old lady, not bad, just like “old lady.” The very distinct smell of old lady always reminds me of Ruth. Senses are powerful. Senses bring back strong memories. Road to Recovery is one of the important programs made possible by funds raised at Making Strides.

Life evolves and changes. Trish, our family friend who was like an aunt to me, always baked the cakes for birthday celebrations; there were always two cakes – one chocolate and one vanilla. After Trish died, her husband took over the tradition of baking the cakes. The first year, he forgot the sugar. I recall taking a forkful of cake and wanting to spit it out. It tasted disgusting. It was a bittersweet time celebrating her child’s birthday without her. Memories are powerful. Senses bring back strong memories.

Some of the committee members have suggested that I must return from college each year to help on the day of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. I have assured them that I will be back to help, to volunteer and do whatever I can, until the day that the event is no longer needed because we have found a cure. Making Strides will always be meaningful to me. I hope that one day I can help another Ruth or Trish and their families.

Kyle Russ, son of volunteer chair Kathi Russ, wrote this for his college entrance essay in 2009. He graduated from Bryant University in 2014.

Author: Kyle Russ

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