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Painting Corona Park pink

Hundreds of participants in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk dance in sync in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The annual event raises money for the American Cancer Society. Photo by Christina Santucci
Josepfina Duaqui (c.) and her supporters participate in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. Duaqui was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Breast cancer survivor Nadine Weaver lives in Manhattan, but she prefers to come back to her native Queens every year for the American Cancer Society’s annual breast cancer walk in Flushing Meadows Corona Park rather than attend the Central Park walk.

“Different groups interact with each other,” Weaver said of the Queens walk. “I’ve seen groups holding hands and they’re not in the same group.”

Thousands of survivors, family and supporters — many of them wearing pink but others wearing the teams of the organization or school they were marching with — filled the park Sunday for the 19th annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.

John Link, director of special events at the American Cancer Society, said the organization hoped to raise $900,000 from the 15,000 participants.

“The turnout has been just unbelievable for the event so far,” Link said around 10 p.m., when the walk officially kicked off.

Link said the funds raised by the walk go to breast cancer research, services and programs.

“Every year Queens has stepped it up and done better and better,” Link said.

Some survivors said they came to encourage and serve as a model for those recently diagnosed.

“For me, it’s giving more support for the people who are suffering right now,” said survivor Eliana Benavides, 46, of Flushing.

Mary Blocker, a Brooklyn breast cancer survivor originally from Far Rockaway who works at the American Cancer Society’s Queens Boulevard branch as a counselor, said she was happy to have participated. She said she raised $300 for the walk.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s heart-wrenching. It’s a bittersweet day.”

Others participated in the walk in memory of those who had died of breast cancer. Kathleen Wisdom, 63, of Jamaica, said her daughter Marie Cyrus lost her battle with the disease at 34. Her sister, aunt and cousin are also survivors, and are now in remission.

“You have to ask God to give them faith and courage,” Wisdom said of her fellow walkers, who had lost relatives to cancer.

Flushing resident Gail Mathis, 58, said she was marching on behalf of her mother, Mary, an English teacher at IS 126 in Astoria who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and died New Year’s Day 2012.

“She was here every other year but this one,” Mathis said.

She said seeing so many people fighting to end breast cancer was elating and she was happy for the accomplishments made in fighting the disease over the years.

“Now when you hear ‘cancer,’ you don’t think it’s a death sentence,” Mathis said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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