Arverne Cancer Support Group Hosts Cancer Walk

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” - Coretta Scott King


The Arverne Cancer Support Group began during cancer awareness month in October of 1999 at the Bethel Arverne AME church prayer circle. The group was founded by Sarah Colson, a beloved community advocate who is described by current members as “a dynamic woman who cared about her community.” Though Sarah has since passed away after battling breast cancer, many examples of her great work live on in Rockaway, and she even has a street named after her. Annette Ervin, Chaplain of the Arverne Cancer Support Group, recalls her inextinguishable drive to help those in need, “Even when she was in the hospital dying she was trying to help the woman in the bed next to her.” Sarah’s remarkable spirit continues to inspire members of the Arverne Cancer Support Group and drives them forward even in the face of overwhelming obstacles.

The Arverne Cancer Support Group will be hosting their 1st annual Rockaway Beats Cancer Walk on Saturday, October 21st between 10am-2pm. The walk will have two starting points; the McDonald’s on Mott Ave and Beach Channel Drive and the 100th Precinct building. Both walks will proceed along Beach Channel Drive towards 56th St, where they will meet at Goldie Maple Park. The point of the walk, says Annette, is “to bring the community together about a cause and to also let people know that we’re here for you.” Other upcoming events include the “Celebration of Life” Dinner Dance, the group’s annual fundraiser, on Monday, November 6th. Find information about all their events in future issues of the Rockaway Advocate.

When most people think of cancer support, they automatically think of the iconic pink breast cancer ribbon. Many people even assume that the pink ribbon is symbolic of all cancer awareness efforts. The unfortunate truth is that cancer comes in seemingly endless forms and variations, many of which have their own unique ribbon symbols. For example, a teal ribbon signifies ovarian cancer, a blue ribbon signifies prostate cancer, and a purple ribbon signifies pancreatic cancer. Because of the vast diversity in cancer awareness symbols, the Arverne Cancer Support Group is not asking the community to wear any particular colors or symbols for the walk, but intends to show solidarity for those affected by all types of cancer and the many ways that cancer affects us all as a community.

Members of the group share various reasons for being involved. Annette joined the group when her mother, who had a rare form of colon cancer called colorectal carcinoid syndrome (zebra ribbon), sent her to meetings that she could not attend herself. Sonia Figueroa, the group’s newest member, joined after her grandson Jacob was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, the most common soft tissue cancer in children (gold ribbon), when he was just 11 years old. Jacob is now 14, and Sonia glowingly showed me pictures of him smiling at his recent football game, something which seemed impossible just a short time ago. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend their monthly support meetings. For more information, contact the group’s president, Jacqueline McMikle, at 718-474-7266.

Beyond holding monthly support meetings, the group undertakes to help their members in any way they can, whether it be financial, material, physical, emotional, or spiritual. They have paid rent for their members, helped with medicine and treatment costs, bought toys for young children during the holiday season, and provided rides to the doctor’s office. Last year, they raised over $2,500 at a surprise fundraiser they hosted for a community member who is currently battling a third bout of cancer. True to their origins, a constant cornerstone of the group is supporting their members and their families through prayer.

Educating their members and the wider community is also essential to their mission. They routinely encourage preventative care like colonoscopies, prostate exams, and pap smears and have brought the mammogram bus to Rockaway on several occasions. They also understand that being proactive about cancer takes more than preventative care alone. Knowing your family medical history, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising regularly, especially when you’re young, are vital parts of treating the disease or reducing the likelihood of developing it. In the spirit of holistic healing, the group invites experts from multiple areas of medicine to come and share their knowledge at their annual free breakfast event every spring, including nutritionists, representatives from the Diabetes Foundation, and even audiologists. At this year’s event, they will hold a memorial service where they release dozens of balloons into the air to symbolize those we have lost, each making their own tiny hole in the sky with their many bright colors.