Making Strides Cancer Reflections – ‘Sarah’s Soldiers’ pushing ahead

  • The 1996 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Concord.The Original “Sarah’s Soldiers” shown in 1996 includes, from left, Donna Dodge, Shannon Dodge, Cydney Dodge and Sarah Dodge Raney. Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 10/4/2022 7:03:25 PM
Modified: 10/4/2022 6:59:08 PM

On Oct. 20, 1996, I attended my first Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. Little did I know at the time that I would still be a part of this event 27 years later.

My mother, Donna Dodge was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991 at the age of 52 and in 1995 my youngest sister, Sarah Dodge Raney at the age of 23 was also diagnosed with breast cancer.

My sister Sarah had been involved with a survivor group and had been asked to speak at the 3rd Annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Concord event. I walked onto the field that cool day in October along with 200 people, yes only 200 participants. For refreshments after the walk there were two bags of apples and a few bottles of water.

Our family continued to be involved with Making Strides after the loss of my sister Sarah in 1998. We gathered in October of 1998 to walk in memory of my sister. On the way to Memorial Field I recall saying to my daughter “there must be a football game going on, there are so many cars.” Little did I know the participation had increased to approximately 1,000 people.

During the walk we came upon a woman pushing a stroller with a piece of paper on her back saying “Walking in Honor of Sarah Dodge Raney.”

We stood in amazement. Who was this women and why do we not know her? At that moment we decided it was time to form a team in Sarah’s memory. The following year we formed a team of 100 plus members. We named our team “Sarah’s Soldiers” going in to finish the fight for her.

Another thing that happened that day in 1998 that would seem to be of little significance is that we found ourselves in need of a restroom and there were no facilities to be found. I pledged to get involved in the event. I joined the committee and secured the donations of portable bathrooms. You should never underestimate a woman in need of a bathroom.

Through my 27 years as a volunteer I have served as Director of Logistics, Director of Survivorship, and the 2000, 2001 and 2021 Event Chair. This year I am again honored be the 2022 Volunteer Event Chair.

In 2004 we lost my Mom to breast cancer. Each year our team made and wore photo buttons of Sarah on our team T-shirts. So as Sarah’s Soldiers continued the fight, now in memory of both my sister and my mother, we made buttons picturing both of them for our team to wear. Through the years as our team grew and our team recruited new membersto join our fight, there were people on the team that never had the opportunity to meet either of them. We shared our buttons and our memories, our laugher and our tears, our hopes and determination.

Some of our team members went on to form their own teams. Forever Young, Hakuna MaTaTa’s, Tucker’s Treasurer Chest and Soldiering On, just to name a few. That is the thing about breast cancer, it’s not about one of us, it’s about all of us, as breast cancer effects far too many of us.

In a letter my sister wrote before she died she reminded us that “the world is a beautiful place” and “don’t cry because I’m gone, be happy because you knew me.” I have held those words in my heart and tried to live my life by that mantra. During my 27 years of involvement I have made many wonderful community connections from the sponsors, to in-kind donors, to team leaders and team members. Along the way I have made many dear friends.

The funds that are raised by so many generous individuals in the state of New Hampshire and beyond are used so wisely by the American Cancer Society. The research, programs and services and advocacy have grown in the years I have been a part of this amazing event. One of the indications that I see that tells me that the American Cancer Society is making a difference is when on the day of the event when the survivor photo is taken, I see the stage of full of strong, amazing, courageous survivors. Each year the number of survivors grows and I believe that is due to the money we raise and the work the American Cancer Society is doing. As we commemorate the 30th anniversary of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of NH, I invite you to join me on October 16th as together we continue to make strides against breast cancer. And remember, the world is a beautiful place.

Cydney Dodge is the 2022 Volunteer Event Chair.

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