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Hope On Main Street Returns Celebrating Cancer Survivors, Caregivers



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Hope on Main Street returned to Newtown Saturday, September 10 after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group raises Relay for Life funds for the American Cancer Society to help continue its lifesaving programs.

The event started at C.H. Booth Library, where American Cancer Society lawn signs were put up to educate the public about a variety of cancer-related topics.

Hope on Main Street Founder/Chairperson Gayle DiBenedetto led the event and shared her personal experience being a four-time caregiver for family members with cancer. She also took the time to recognize all the supporters of the event, many of whom volunteered supporting Newtown Relay for Life events going back nearly two decades.

“If you look around, you will see many members of my team wearing their blue or bright yellow Hope T-shirts. Allow me to introduce my amazing team. For without them, there would be no event … we have: Tom DiBenedetto, Maryann Morehouse, Brittany Ziman, Jana Emmerthal, Sandra Rasmussen, Bart Rasmussen, Rob Emmerthal, Kait Thomas, Christopher Farrington, Eileen Bradshaw-Marchese, Mary Salley, Terri Reisert, Shelby Jones, Bill Glass, Nicholas Swenson, Cheri Williams, and our ACS rep and friend, Kate Corsitto.”

“This team is truly outstanding in work ethics, passion, vision, friendship and support,” she continued. “We all share two things in common: Love for our survivors and hope that one day we will eradicate cancer!”

DiBenedetto thanked Todd Ingersoll whose auto sales and service companies sponsored the event, as well as the group’s other supporters including C.H. Booth Library, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, Borough of Newtown, Newtown Police Department, Newtown Volunteer Fire Companies, Newtown Parks & Recreation, Grant Ossendryver for being the sound technician/DJ, and The Newtown Bee.

She also expressed her gratitude to Farmhouse Restaurant for donating gift certificates, Castle Hill Chocolates for donating chocolate, Mimi’s Edible Creations for donating cookies, and NJK Automotive, who made a “large donation” to American Cancer Society.

“Folks are welcome to sit here if they wish or join us on the walk, in memory of people we’ve lost to cancer and in honor of our survivors with us today,” DiBenedetto concluded. “Thank you again for joining us today, and we hope that you enjoy our celebration of you. Please keep that fighting spirit. You inspire us all day long, every day.”

‘I Wasn’t Alone’

Guest speaker Cindy Sevell, of Oxford, then shared her personal story as a breast cancer survivor. She experienced symptoms in 2014 but it took about a year to get diagnosed in May 2015.

“It was the worst day of my life,” she recalled about when she heard the news.

At the age of 45, Sevell underwent a double mastectomy and began feeling situational depression. She felt like she did not know where to go or what to do at this part of her life.

It was not until she joined a support group where she realized, “I wasn’t alone.”

Counseling was beneficial for Sevell, especially as she would later go on to have a “terrible” plastic surgery experience for her breasts.

After eight major breast-related surgeries over three years, she “began to feel whole again.” In doing so, she said, she went on to have “boob-themed parties” and received a special tattoo over her chest that she loves.

“Now, life is great. I am cancer free … [but] the fear is always there,” Sevell said.

She wrote a book, called It Is What It Fucking Is, chronicling her journey as a cancer survivor. She has gone on to write children’s books about topics such as COVID-19, diversity, and a dog with cancer.

Sevell encouraged everyone in the audience to pursue her dreams, which is what she did when she became a writer, talk show host — and even when she bought two motorcycles, learned to ride, and joined a biker club.

“Start today if there is something you want to do. Don’t wait … Don’t let any obstacle get in your way. Live your life,” she said.

Light The Night

Following her speech, everyone was invited to watch Dance Etc’s dance team do a few performances in the front of C.H. Booth Library.

In addition to survivors receiving gift bags, there was also a raffle and winners were announced after the dances.

Hope on Main Street volunteers, wearing neon yellow shirts that read, “Light the Night with Hope,” then passed out candles for those who wished to hold them on their walk.

Terry Manning led the crowd on the walk while playing bagpipe music. He brought them from C.H. Booth Library to the former police department, across the street where there was a police escort, up Main Street, and then crossed the road in front of Edmond Town Hall before returning to the library.

Some chose to continue walking after the first lap.

For more information about Hope on Main Street and to donate, visit hopeonmainstreet.com. Follow the group on Facebook @HopeOnMainStreet. To learn more about American Cancer Society, go to cancer.org.

Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at alissa@thebee.com.

Newtown resident and cancer survivor Alissa Mendoza stands with her son, Jayden Mendoza, and husband, Michael Mendoza, by a Relay for Life banner at the Hope on Main Street event on September 10. —Bee Photos, Silber
Terry Manning plays the bagpipe while leading the Hope on Main Street walkers on the sidewalk down on Main Street.
Hope on Main Street Founder and Chairperson Gayle DiBenedetto led the September 10 event and spoke to the crowd before the walk.
Hope on Main Street organizer and 22-year cancer survivor Chris Farrington stands at the table where survivors could pick up their gift bags.
Cancer survivor and author Cindy Sevell shares her personal story with attendees at Hope on Main Street.
Dance Etc student Adriana Russo performs for Hope on Main Street attendees on Saturday, September 10, in front of C.H. Booth Library.
Newtown resident Kathleen Wengart is surviving Stage 4 lung cancer and attended the Hope on Main Street event.
American Cancer Society signs with educational information were placed around the lawn of C.H. Booth Library. There were also luminaries set up along the library sidewalk and down Main Street for the event.
Dance Etc President Jen Turey, center, stands with students after their performances for Hope on Main Street.
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