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Fern Carriero is a UFT member, a chapter leader and a fighter.
She has struggled with breast cancer for 17 years.
The teacher at PS 207 in Bergen Beach has battled the disease three times: when she was diagnosed in 2000 after her first mammogram, then eight years later when it appeared in her other breast and, most recently, when it spread to her shoulder and spine. Despite her challenges, Carriero chose to spend the morning of Oct. 15 sharing time and laughter with her family, including two sisters who are paraprofessionals, at the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Coney Island.
To show their support, family members each wore pink zebra-print hats and matching pink mittens, hand-knitted by Carriero’s 90-year-old mother, Evelyn Waltuch, who also joined the walk.
“To me, it means a lot. I wasn’t feeling well, but my colleagues, my union and my family all were very supportive,’’ said a tearful Carriero.
She was among the thousands of UFT members who formed teams, collected donations and walked in this year’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in all five boroughs plus New Jersey and Long Island on Sunday, Oct. 15. The money raised goes to the American Cancer Society, the event’s sponsor, to support breast cancer research, advocacy and patient services. Each year the UFT and its state affiliate, NYSUT, raise more than $1 million at the event, putting them among Making Strides’ top fundraisers.
“It’s a win-win situation for all stakeholders in our participating school communities,” said Katrina Foye, the UFT’s Strides coordinator in Brooklyn. “There’s nothing like teaching and building awareness.”
Participants in each location strutted in pink accessories, wigs, buttons and hats, paying tribute to those who have been affected by breast cancer.
“I lost my mother when I was 30 years old, so it’s a big part of my life,” said Shelly Smith, a school secretary at PS 253 in Brighton Beach and her school’s Strides team leader. Smith, who has been walking for 12 years, said her school community raised $2,024 this year.
Lisa Brown, a dance teacher at PS/IS 109 in Flatbush, said she was honoring those who have died from the disease while hoping to encourage those who are still fighting it. “I had a friend who went through breast cancer 14 years ago,” said Brown, who walked in a pink tutu. “Even though I did the walk before that, it became more personal for me.”
Brown walked alongside colleague Phyllis Jackson, a kindergarten teacher who came to remember her grandmother, who died of cancer in 1993.
Christina Falgiano, a teacher at PS 253 in Brighton Beach, said the union’s big presence at the walks each year reflected the many women in the teaching profession. “Everyone around us is being affected by it and so everyone being here makes the survivors stronger,” she said.
The school community of PS/IS 235 in Flatbush raised more than $22,000, making it the biggest fundraiser among the 154 UFT teams, according to the American Cancer Society’s Strides website.
“This is the fourth year we have done this on a large scale,” said PS/IS 235 teacher and walk organizer Nicholas Taranto.
About 100 members of the school community participated in memory of Janice Marie Knight, the school’s late principal, who succumbed to the disease 10 years ago. The school and the block it is on now bear Knight’s name.
“So many people are touched by this disease that it was something everyone wanted to participate in,” said Taranto.
Even the students came out, all dressed in pink. “Little hands can make a big difference,” he said. “Don’t sell the kids short because they can really come through.”
What is your favorite movie about a teacher?
Dead Poets Society
Stand and Deliver
Mr. Holland's Opus
Total votes: 703