Mark Chaykin, newly retired as NYSUT director of field operations, has a black tie with pink ribbons on it, and a pink shirt. He wears them proudly when he attends functions for the American Cancer Society, where he has boosted NYSUT's profile as a flagship sponsor for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. Since 2002, NYSUT members have raised hopes and more than $12 million to take on the disease — more than any contributing corporation in the U.S.
Chaykin, a former regional staff director in the NYSUT Elmsford Regional Office, improved participation in that area's walk by highlighting the activity at NYSUT conferences. After taking a job at headquarters, he worked with then NYSUT Executive Director Jim Wood and Toni Cortese, NYSUT's then vice president, to pool the energy of local unions to become a statewide Making Strides sponsor.
"More than 65 percent of our members are women," Chaykin said. "It seems that none of us escape dealing directly or indirectly with this terrible disease."
Some NYSUT members have their own personal struggles with the common cancer, and others work every day with breast cancer patients in hospitals or with students who have been affected.
"Our members work with students whose mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, etc., are all vulnerable to getting breast cancer; many of them deal with a student who is now wondering why his/her mommy is not available to help in a life changing event," Chaykin said.
The ACS events, which happen every fall, fit NYSUT's mission and goals by educating the community and giving members an opportunity to show that "union members have concerns that are greater than just a good contract," Chaykin said. Putting on sneakers is a great union building activity that helps both communities and colleagues.
"In addition to championing the partnership between NYSUT and ACS, Mark Chaykin has helped provide information on screenings to many disadvantaged populations throughout the state, worked on the pilot project to reach underserved communities in three school districts across the state and helped us to reach NYSUT retirees with added health information," said Lillian Jones, executive director of the Greater Capital Region ACS.
This year's boisterous walks run from Oct. 4-25. Contact your local union president to find out how to join a group of your peers in pink, or sign up at http://makingstrides.acsevents.org. Money raised helps fund research, information, services and access to mammograms for women in need.
Since 2007, NYSUT has had seven consecutive years of raising $1 million or more.