CORTLANDT, N.Y. -- A 5K walk to end breast cancer is not taking place for a few days, but one young Croton-on-Hudson participant has already made great strides toward raising awareness of the disease that strikes hundreds of thousands of women in the U.S. each year.
Gabriel Ardito, a 7th grader at Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School, is a member of the ASAP (Always Striving; Always Positive) Leadership Club from the the Town of Cortlandt's Youth and Recreation Center.
The club’s members and their families and friends have been busy raising funds for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Westchester Walk set for Sunday at Manhattanville College in Purchase.
According to the youth center’s director, Katherine Sclafani, the club’s walk team named itself The Cortlandt YC Cancer Stompers, based on its slogan “Stomp Out Breast Cancer.”
But thanks to the youths' diligent donation-collecting efforts, and money made by selling T-shirts, handmade coasters and other promotional merchandise, they have surpassed their original goal of $3,000 by $1,000 and are working on raising more, Sclafani said.
A good chunk of that can be attributed to Ardito, she said. The 12-year-old had hoped to raise $150 in memory of his beloved baby sitter, Mena.
“Mena took care of me when I was just a little dude. She died of cancer, and I want to remember her by walking in this event,” Ardito said.
Ardito is one of several Cortlandt kids who have been sharing their stories.
According to Scalfani, Gabriel recently spoke to a group of Cortlandt seniors and was “very excited to see that people cared as much as he did.” Ardito raised $300 at that event alone.
He also reached out to his late babysitter’s siblings, who not only made a donation but helped spread the word about the walk.
“After that, the donations poured in,” Scalfani said, adding that, as of Thursday, Ardito had raked in $1,500 for the cause.
The Stompers, as a team, were able to secure more than 20 local businesses as sponsors, Scalfani said.
(To view a list of all of their sponsors, go to www.townofcortlandt.com/yc )
The team’s logo was designed by Jacob Klein and the coasters were handmade by member Kayla Campos..
The club members also created their own music video. The lyrics were written and sung by member Alex Turk, who also did the beatboxing.
Ardito, who told Scalfani that he still misses his babysitter, will have his own support group when he steps off this weekend: Mena’s brother and sister will be walking with him.
Manhattanville College is at 2900 Purchase St. in Purchase. Registration begins at 8 a.m., and the walk starts at 9:30 a.m., rain or shine.