Coney Island breast cancer walk sees 15,000 participants

Marchers clad in pink came out to Coney Island on Oct. 10 for the return of the neighborhood’s Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk.
Making Strides

Coney Island saw a sea of pink on Oct. 10 as thousands of people took to the Riegelmann Boardwalk to raise money for breast cancer research.

“We had a wonderful time,” said Renée Regnier, development manager at Making Strides for Breast Cancer, an arm of the American Cancer Society which hosts 5-kilometer walks during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in each of the five boroughs. “A lot of people were so excited we came back to in-person.”

The purposeful walk also stresses the importance of annual screenings — something more significant than ever after the coronavirus pandemic forced many women and men to put off crucial, potentially life-saving medical appointments.

“It is our signature event to raise awareness for breast cancer and to highlight the different opportunities and resources available to cancer patients,” Regnier said. “Those are one of the priorities that we get people to continue making sure they stay as safe as possible getting screened.”

The Brooklyn chapter of Making Strides has hosted its October walks on Coney Island’s Riegelmann Boardwalk since 2017, before which the events were held in Prospect Park. The charity’s development manager said it’s great to give participants the opportunity to take in the scenery of the beach and the iconic wooden boardwalk. 

Since going virtual in 2020 like other events and fundraisers across the country, Regnier said it was exciting to get people back together after over a year. She and the rest of the Making Strides team also assured participants’ safety by providing ample protective equipment as well as transitioning to the use of touchless technology for registration. 

“The event was amazing, even with the changes that we had to make because of the pandemic and following the COVID guidelines,” she said. “People still came out to support.”

Regnier said the participants also managed to keep a natural social distance thanks to the way the event was laid out and crowds coming in waves — an impressive feat given the walk’s estimated 15,000 attendees.

“It wasn’t as crowded because I found people were coming in sporadic, they weren’t coming altogether,” she told Brooklyn Paper. “So it was more spaced out … and people weren’t on top of one another like we’ve had in the past.” 

Marchers start on the boardwalk by the B&B Carousel at W. 16th Street and walk the boardwalk in Brighton Beach before tuning around and coming back to complete the 5K walk. The event is capped off with a small celebration at the Cyclones’ stadium, now dubbed Maimonides Park, where the walk’s sponsors and other cancer societies set up tents in the parking lot.

The borough’s baseball team has always been a big supporter of the Brooklyn Making Strides events, Regnier said.

“We have a great relationship with the Brooklyn Cyclones,” she said. “That is why we station our festival area where we house all our tents, our sponsor tents our main tents in the Maimonides Park parking lot.” 

So far this year, the Brooklyn breast cancer walk has raised close to $200,000 for breast cancer research — bringing them almost halfway toward their goal of $450,000 by the end of 2021. Money raised so far has been collected through a number of events since March, in addition to the organization’s flagship walk.

Adding to the nostalgia of returning to an in-person walk, Regnier said, a number of fundraising teams returned from previous years, and a lot of new groups signed on this year, such as the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association team, who raised the most money: $7,201

Donations can still be made online to the Brooklyn chapter of Making Strides to help reach this year’s goal, and walks in each of the four other boroughs are all taking place Sunday, Oct. 17.