Community support, family fun, at Snowshoe for the Cure

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MANCHESTER — In dark times, amplified by winter winds, community camaraderie has the power to create light.

That's the goal of the annual "Snowshoe for the Cure," organized by Susan G. Komen New England: providing a light in the darkness. While the event is a show of support for those struggling with breast cancer, and for those who have lost loved ones, it also provides a fun outdoor activity to help brighten the winter weeks.

"When people come together and feel that support, and see their community supporting them, it's a really beautiful thing," said Jessica Fisher, of Susan G. Komen. "Often people will come out for these events to find that others in their community have recently been diagnosed, and they're able to support their neighbors. That can be really powerful."

Sunderland's Alyson Gryzb knows that power first hand, as a participant in "Snowshoe for the Cure" since 2004.

The summer prior, Gryzb's mother Paula Ruby had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Upon hearing a radio ad for the event's prior iteration, "Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer" hosted by Tubbs Snowshoes, Gryzb rallied her family members.

"I contacted my sister, and she and her husband made plans to join my boyfriend — now husband — and I in our first Romp," Gryzb said. "That year we raised about $1,500, and snowshoed over the Stratton Golf Course."

The next year, more family members began to join in, including Gryzb's mother. Since 2004 Gryzb and her family have raised more than $150,000 for Susan G. Komen, making the annual snowshoe race something of a family reunion.

Unfortunately, Ruby lost her battle with breast cancer in June of 2005. The following winter, and each since, the family set out on snowshoes with a greater purpose.

"It's a great way to remember my mom and be supportive of my community, as well as the greater national organization," Gryzb said. "By continuing our support of Susan G. Komen, we hope that someday no one will have to lose their mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, or other family member or friend to this disease."

Though the event has found new life under Susan G. Komen's moniker, the race retains its sense of community according to Fisher, who notes that Tubbs remains involved as a sponsor.

Though there are emotional moments, she says, the event provides a fun activity for the whole family.

"I think what's most exciting is that this is a family event that everyone can participate in," Fisher said. "There's a kid's snowshoe dash, as well as a 5K walk that the whole family can participate in, and for the more competitive people there's also a 3K race. No matter what level snowshoer you are, you can participate."

"Sometimes people think that they can't do a 5K, or feel that some of these events are out of their league," Gryzb added. "The snowshoe is super easy; it's like going for a walk with a bunch of people."

Over 100 people have registered for the 2018 "Snowshoe for the Cure" thus far, Fisher says, and the funds raised by those participants can have a real impact on the community.

"All of the funds raised will stay local, within Vermont, and will support our neighbors," Fisher explained. "The funds raised are redistributed through community grants, which support things like screenings as well as educational programs, treatment, and diagnosis."

This year's snowshoe will be held on Jan. 21 at Stratton Mountain, and participants can choose to race or walk as a team or as individuals. Those interested in participating beyond the race have the option of volunteering, donating, or becoming a corporate sponsor according to Fisher.

That support will help Susan G. Komen to reach their long-term goal of reducing breast cancer deaths by 50% in the United States by 2026, she said.

And in the short term? Gryzb hopes that the event will continue to provide a space for the community to gather in support of those struggling, and in memory of those who have lost the battle.

"Everybody there is supporting the cause and working together to try to eradicate breast cancer; everybody is there for that goal," Gryzb said. "I think for those battling breast cancer right now it feels really supportive, as it does for those who have lost someone."

For more information on Snowshoe for a the Cure, FAQs, registration, or donations visit KomenNewEngland.org.

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