The rain and gloomy skies did not appear to dampen spirits during the two-day Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation Flames of Hope event held this past weekend in Providence.
On Saturday, there was a free Passport to Wellness conference with specialized presenters and demonstrations for all in attendance, which was followed by a visit to Celebration Village where there were vendors, information, and entertainment, and much more. Thousands of people attended the event, and the color of the day was pink.
“Look up at the sky and remember all those who have been lost to cancer. The rain is their way of sending love to us that remain to celebrate life,” said Maria Gemma, executive director of the Gloria Gemma. Every two minutes, a woman in the U.S. is diagnosed with breast cancer.
Flames of Hope: A Celebration of Life was created 11 years ago by the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation to promote breast cancer awareness and education and to honor people living with breast cancer. It has grown into one of the largest awareness events in the Northeast with two inspirational days of education, support, and hope.
The day began early with the Passport to Survivorship free conference held at the Omni Biltmore. Just down the road from the Omni, in Station Park next to the Providence Place Mall, the Celebration of Life Festival took place from 3 p.m. to midnight. The festivities included live music, interactive displays, and food and drink. Several bands performed on the main stage, including Decadia, with sounds of the ’80s.
Gregg’s Restaurants & Taverns once again featured their annual Cake for the Cure, which consists of four layers of pink cake filled with pink vanilla butter cream frosting and topped with pink ribbon sprinkles. Those on hand could purchase a slice for a $1 donation to Gloria Gemma.
Mastery Martial Arts held a live demonstration. People bought and decorated boards and watched as the messages on them were broken as a tribute to loved ones. There were 5,000 boards in total.
The foundation was created in 2004 in honor of Gloria Gemma, a mother of nine who was diagnosed with breast cancer three years earlier and died 11 months later. The foundation raises money for breast cancer education and awareness, including a screening program for underinsured women.
At dusk, the rain had stopped and the events moved to the State House as the Illumination of Life Ceremony lit up the night to promote the mission of Gloria Gemma. The ceremony began at the State House, which was beautifully lit in pink, with a moving tribute featuring the State Ballet of Rhode Island and speakers. Torchbearers, mostly breast cancer survivors, then made their way through downtown Providence to the basin at Waterplace Park for a full WaterFire lighting.
“There are no words to express the emotions of the audience or the torchbearers as they proceeded to the basin,” Gemma said.
After a full day and night on Saturday, the Gloria Gemma Run/Walk Series was held the next morning on Oct. 2 with more than four thousand participating. The series began at 9 a.m. with the Kids Fun Run, a sprint down the hill on Francis Street open to children ages five to 12. At 10 a.m., the Pink Pump Palooza kicked off with the inaugural Mayoral Run with Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and Cumberland Mayor William Murray.
Finally, at 11 a.m., 5K participants wearing “pink spirit” ran and walked their way through historic downtown Providence. Prizes were awarded for the fastest times and highest fundraisers. Paws and Sox from the Pawtucket Red Sox were there cheering everyone on.
“It was a sea of pink in Providence today for the Gloria Gemma Run Walk Series. Thank you to all who participated, donated and volunteered. We are humbled and grateful,” Gemma said.
All proceeds are used to help with the operating costs of the Hope Bus, Gloria Gemma’s traveling resource center, and other outreach programs that provide education and support in the greater Rhode Island area.