Maria Mavridis continues to fulfill a promise she made to her mother to support organizations offering support to those going through cancer treatment, although the pandemic that has cancelled most fundraising events is making it a challenge.
The event coming up, a walk or run in support of Pink Pearl, is especially meaningful for her, as she will have her eight-year-old daughter Hope by her side.
Pink Pearl is an organization founded by cancer survivor Elise Gasbarrino, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 21.
While Gasbarrino was receiving treatment at Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton, she found there were few women her age to talk to about her situation, and decided to organize some programs for the younger age group, including wellness retreats, social events and family support.
Pink Pearl, which gives 100 per cent of the money it raises to fighting cancer, has become a thriving charitable organization focused on bringing together young women affected by cancer through a network of peer support and innovative programs.
Mavridis, who has organized several fundraisers for the organization, says before her mother Vera died of breast cancer at the age of 45, she asked her middle daughter Maria to continue on with the work she had started. Vera had lived with the cancer diagnosis and its progression for 13 years, and during that time, she volunteered for several organizations that raised money to fight cancer, promoted awareness of the disease or offered support to those who were going through cancer treatment.
Maria has had the BRCA blood test that uses DNA analysis to determine an increased risk of breast cancer. She has taken that as a lesson to make the most of her life every day, she says, including helping her community, accomplishing something positive, and setting a good example for Hope to follow.
Maria, a busy mom and business woman who helps her father Bob with their family-run restaurants in Niagara-on-the-Lake, will continue to honour her mother’s request by participating in a run being held this month for Pink Pearl. She has organized other successful fundraisers in the past, but at this time during the pandemic, supporters are taking part in individual runs.
She was eight years old when her mother was diagnosed with the disease she would go on to battle for 13 years.
When she and Hope go on daily walks through their Virgil neighbourhood, they chat, and she loves sharing her memories of her mother with Hope.
“It helps keep those memories alive,” says Maria. “She’s at an age that when I tell her how close I was to my mother, she’ll realize how much she can open up to me.”
Although she expects the five-kilometre walk for Pink Pearl to be more like “we’re on a mission” than a leisurely neighbourhood stroll, she expects her chatty daughter will be asking her questions that will give her an opportunity to share stories of her mother, and what they are walking for.
Together5k is Pink Pearl Canada’s 2020 summer event to raise funds and awareness. It’s a virtual ‘fun run’ designed to bring participants together from a distance in support of young women facing cancer.
“Typically, each year our supporters host their own fundraising initiatives, but we’ve found a fun and engaging way to pivot our efforts given the current Covid-19 situation,” says Melaina Gasbarrino, who has helped organize the run and will also be participating.
The programs and communications manager for Pink Pearl, Melaina is Elise’s sister, and a certified yoga teacher and reiki practitioner based in NOTL. She says the five or 10-kilometre run, which takes place from Aug. 12 to 19, is designed for participants to map out their routes to walk or run each day for five minutes, or complete their race in a day. Runners just need to finish their walk or run by August 19 at 12 p.m.
Pink Pearl is “committed to raising funds to continue our programming in a safe and virtual capacity,” she says. “Our annual Niagara-on-the-Lake overnight wellness retreat hosts 40 young women facing any type of cancer, and provides our program participants with the opportunity to come together in a safe and supportive space to share, learn and build friendships. In lieu of an in-person retreat, this year we will be hosting a virtual retreat to ensure our vulnerable community is supported in a safe environment.”
To register and to start your fundraising page to support young women facing cancer, visit bit.ly/together5k.
Help Hope raise money for Pink Pearl by donating at: https://raceroster.com/events/2020/32571/together-5k/pledge/participant/9597829?fbclid=IwAR2Y99Jj8iFN5xXmNRHxH-qvzVCuebAmGB419iVW6yPIypVFz_IobCzH4zA