November 01, 2023

NYSUT members raise over $275,000 for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Source:  NYSUT Media Relations
making strides
Caption: NYSUT President Melinda Person (right) and Secretary Treasurer Philippe Abraham (left) with union leaders at the Making Strides event in Albany's Washington Park. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Latham, NY – New York State United Teachers is proud to congratulate its 174 teams who participated in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks across the state, raising over $275,000 to save lives and fund the future of cancer research, patient support and advocacy.

Now a flagship sponsor of the annual Making Strides events, NYSUT has been walking in solidarity with individuals who have been diagnosed with breast cancer since 2002. During that time, NYSUT members from Jones Beach to Buffalo have raised over $16.6 million.

“Breast cancer knows no boundaries,” said J. Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer, whose office coordinates the statewide union’s social justice initiatives and who lost one of his sisters to the disease. “It has affected many of our members directly, or indirectly, in every corner of the state. But it also unites us in our goal to make sure no member faces a diagnosis alone, and our relentless pursuit of a future in which breast cancer is no longer a life-threatening disease.”

This year, NYSUT’s top fundraising team comes from Niagara County. The Starpoint Teachers Association raised over $12,000 in the battle to beat breast cancer, a mission that hits home for the union and school community. Starpoint TA member, top individual fundraiser on the team, and first-grade teacher Tara Pfohl was first diagnosed with stage 3A breast cancer at just 34 years old. After a bilateral mastectomy, four months of chemotherapy, seven weeks of radiation and several reconstructive surgeries, Pfohl’s doctor declared her cancer was in remission.

Then, in May of 2021, her breast cancer returned. It had spread to her spine and pleural lung space, and she was diagnosed with stage 4, metastatic breast cancer. While there is no cure, thanks to advances in research and technology, there are medications that help patients like Pfohl manage it.

“I’m living with cancer, but I’m really living with it. I’m thriving,” Pfohl said. “Making Strides gives everyone an opportunity to come together and support one another, celebrate the wins, see all the people – survivors and thrivers – together and know that there are other people out there who have experienced the same thing as you.”

The Pearl River Teachers Association from Orange County, a close second in the friendly fundraising competition, has raised nearly $11,000 to take down the disease. Marni Hogne, seventh grade special education teacher and member of the Pearl River TA, said that when she goes around requesting donations for Making Strides, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t been personally affected by the disease.

Hogne has been involved with Making Strides of Hudson Valley in Central Valley since 2018, the same year she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. “For me, it became personal,” Hogne said. Following her diagnosis, she had two surgeries, and months of chemotherapy and radiation. “Research saved my life, and I wanted to make sure that other people facing this diagnosis got the same level of care I got,” she said.

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with nearly 700,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.