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Cortlandt Kids 'Finish Strong' In Breast Cancer Walk

Members of The Cortlandt YC Cancer Stompers are, from left: Kayla Campos, Joselyn Sarmiento (in pink hat), Jennifer Hayes, Charlie Hayes, and, far right, Audrey Puente. They are shown with Buchanan elementary school teacher Dawn Gauthier. Photo Credit: Provided
Members of The Cortlandt YC Cancer Stompers pose for a group shot during the recent Making Strides Against Cancer Walk in Harrison. Photo Credit: Provided
Standing with Gabriel Ardito (holding pink sign) are, from left: Jessica Carreira, Michael Carreira, Lino Carreira, and Gerald and Connie Ardito, Gabriel's parents. Gabriel was walking in memory of Mena Carreira, his late babysitter. Photo Credit: Provided

HARRISON, N.Y. -- It would have been easier if a group of youngsters looking for a community project had just painted a fence, or planted a garden, but they chose to tackle something that had far-reaching significance for themselves, and more importantly, others, said an official at the Cortlandt Youth and Recreation Center.

Members of the center’s ASAP (Always Striving; Always Positive) Leadership Club took part Sunday in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Westchester Walk at Manhattanville College in Purchase, a hamlet in the town of Harrison.

The team, which named itself The Cortlandt YC Cancer Stompers, originally set out to raise $3,000 to promote awareness of the disease that strikes thousands of women in the U.S. each year.

As of Monday, they had pulled in close to $5,000, according to Offutt Porter, the town’s assistant recreation director.

The whole thing – from making fundraising phone calls , to making a video, to creating a logo and promotional products such as T-shirts and drink coasters, to the walk itself – was just “an amazing, really epic, experience” for the kids, Porter said.

“Most of them had never experienced anything that big before,” he said.

There were about 19,000 walkers, ranging from survivors to people who had lost a family member or friend to breast cancer to folks who just wanted to support the cause.

“It made such an impact on them (the YC team) to be surrounded by all the people who are fighting and those that were walking in memory of someone who had passed,” Porter said, adding: “It was very humbling.”

Part of the 5-mile walk’s challenge was its length. The route took walkers from the college’s campus through the community’s streets and back.

Porter said there were rest and snack stops along the way, but all the kids made it to the end.

“The bottom line is, it showed them that you should finish what you started, finish strong and represent, to the best of your ability, the cause,” Porter said.

Porter said the challenge of organizing the team and all that fundraising entails was validating for the kids and proved that they were capable of being a “force in the community.”

Now the group can take the experience and apply it to future projects, he added.

One of the group’s members, Gabriel Ardito, a 7th grader at the Pierre Van Cortland Middle School, walked in memory of his late babysitter.

The 12-year-old had hoped to raise about $150, but ended up raising $1,770, Porter said.

Gabriel walked with his sitter’s children during the event.

For more information about the YC Cancer Stompers, or to make a donation, click here.

For more information about the American Cancer Society and its Making Strides fundraising events, click here.

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