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After 2 years on hiatus, T.E.A.L. Celebration to return to Prospect Park to raise funds, awareness for ovarian cancer

T.E.A.L ovarian cancer survivor
T.E.A.L.’s annual Celebration and Women’s Health Expo is back on Sept. 10 to celebrate survivors of ovarian cancer and raise money for T.E.A.L., or Tell Every Amazing Woman About Ovarian Cancer.
File photo by Trey Pentecost

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and, after two years away, the annual T.E.A.L. Celebration and Women’s Health Expo is coming back to Brooklyn on Saturday, Sept. 10.

T.E.A.L., or Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer, was founded by sisters Louisa M. McGregor and Pamela Esposito-Amery in 2009, two years after McGregor was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. 

The sisters realized there was very little information available about ovarian cancer — no support groups, no resources, and very little funding for research — and took things into their own hands. The annual Walk/Run was the first event they ever held.

“She wanted to meet other survivors, she wanted to get information, she wanted to have help, have guidance in her journey and everything, and she just wasn’t finding it,” said Courtney Donahue-Taleporos, programs manager at T.E.A.L. “The walk was all their friends and family pitching in and doing it, and then it started to grow with each year.”

TEAL run/walk participants
The 2022 T.E.A.L. Run/Walk will be held virtually to ensure all participants are safe and comfortable, but a new Women’s Health Expo will educate the public and celebrate ovarian cancer survivors on Sept. 10. Photo courtesy of T.E.A.L./Jordan Rathkopf

T.E.A.L. was growing and expanding too. Now in its 13th year, the foundation educates women about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, supports patients and their families, and works to raise public awareness of ovarian cancer.

Though the disease is fairly common — 10 in every 100,000 women developed ovarian cancer in the U.S. in 2019, according to federal statistics, and six of those 10 women died from the disease — there are still no accurate ways to test for ovarian cancer, and its symptoms are often attributed to other factors until the cancer has progressed, Donahue-Taleporos said.

“We also want to make people aware of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, because that’s usually when it’s caught — when a woman is bloating, or she’s noticed some changes in her body so she goes to the doctor and says something, and it’s like, Stage IV,” she said.

Much of the money T.E.A.L. raises goes toward funding research for an accurate test. The organization also provides resources and support for survivors and their families — every survivor, no matter when she was diagnosed, can join their free membership program to receive kits in the mail. For women going through chemotherapy, the kit will include puzzles and other things to do during treatment, and special kits go out to members on their birthdays.

The Run/Walk has been held virtually for the last two years because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the much-anticipated event looks a little different this year, Donahue-Taleporos said. Usually held in-person in Prospect Park, the Run/Walk will be entirely virtual this year — participants can register online to receive a race bib, then complete their two-mile race from anywhere.

people participate in virtual ovarian cancer walk
People gathered in small groups to take part in the virtual T.E.A.L. Walk/Run in 2020. The event will still be virtual this year, but the organization is hosting an in-person health expo and celebration of survivors in Prospect Park. File photo by Paul Frangipane

The event will be back in person in the future, she explained, but the health-focused organization is trying to be mindful of what’s safe and comfortable for their participants.

But the park will not be empty on Saturday — T.E.A.L. is hosting its first Women’s Health Expo plus a celebration of ovarian cancer survivors.

The health fair will feature a mobile mammogram van for anyone in need of the annual screening, booths with representatives from Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Park Slope Wellness, and Tai-Chi and meditation workshops. TD Bank is also hosting a financial wellness workshop.

At the center of the event is the survivor’s celebration. Each survivor will enter on a red carpet, Donahue-Taleporos said, and have her name called so the crowd can cheer for her as she has her photo taken.

“It’s usually one of the more emotional parts of the day, where everyone is just so happy, and cheering them on, and they love it,” she said. “We also have a great sponsor who donated some gifts for them, we have some gifts for them as well. We try to just make them feel really special for the whole day.”

people wrap a tree in teal ribbon for ovarian cancer awareness
T.E.A.L. volunteers will also wrap trees on heavily-trafficked Brooklyn streets in teal ribbons to raise awareness, and will place flyers about Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in nearby store windows. File photo by Paul Frangipane

A $35 pass includes registration for the virtual run/walk and both the in-person and virtual elements of the health expo. Attendees can also register for the health expo alone for free, or can pay $100 for the “All-Access Pass,” which includes a donation to T.E.A.L. and a “luxury fundraiser bag” for the attendee.

Outside of the event, Coney Island’s iconic Parachute Jump will be lit up teal in honor of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month next week, Donahue-Taleporos said, and T.E.A.L. members will take to Flatbush, Myrtle, and Fifth avenues to tie teal ribbons to trees to raise awareness for the disease. The organization also places flyers in the windows of local businesses to educate passersby about the ribbons and encourage further awareness and conversations.

“We’re thrilled to be back in the park and seeing people, a lot of our survivors and our families come back year after year, so we’re excited to see them,” Donahue-Taleporos said. She also encouraged members of the public to come out to the fair and make a donation if they can.

teal ovarian cancer walk
All of the money raised by T.E.A.L. goes directly toward research and supporting survivors and their families, Donahue-Telaporos said, and the organization is in need of a fundraising boost. File photo by Trey Pentecost

“Because of COVID, we are kind of down in our donations and our fundraising, we haven’t quite gotten back to the level that we were at,” she said. “We are really in need of donations and help from the public. All of our money that we raise goes back to these survivors, and goes back to our awareness and education materials, and everything that we do for survivors and their families.”

The T.E.A.L. Celebration and Women’s Health Expo takes place on Saturday, Sept. 10, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Find more and register to attend here. To find out more about ovarian cancer, signs and symptoms, and treatment, visit T.E.A.L.’s website.

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