WARWICK — “Man Up Against Breast Cancer” is a popular slogan often heard and seen on bright pink shirts during the past few weeks in the halls of Bishop Hendricken High School as faculty, staff and students joined in the campaign during October, nationally proclaimed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to help find a cure for the devastating disease.
After seeing a similar program at the Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury, Mass., Hendricken Principal Joseph Brennan thought, “it was a great idea for an all boy’s school to be educated and encouraged to participate in such a program.”
On Sept. 29, students attended a medical presentation offered by Dr. Anthony Thomas, chief of Hematology/Oncology at Memorial Hospital, Pawtucket, and learned that in the United States, the disease affects an estimated 192,000 women every year, 40,000 of whom will lose their lives.
Dr. Thomas also emphasized that while breast cancer affects a small segment of the male population, it’s important for men to be aware of the signs of breast cancer and to perform self-exams.
The presentation included a powerful testimony offered by Meg Underwood, a breast cancer survivor who shared glimpses of her journey through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Underwood is the mother of Peter Early, a member of the Hendricken Class of 2000.
“It was very powerful as to how it changed her life,” Brennan emphasized, adding that when the students were asked how many either had a relative or knew someone with breast cancer, most raised a hand.
On Oct. 9, more than 400 members of the Hendricken community sporting bright pink T-shirts participated in the second annual Gloria Gemma 5K Walk/Run in Providence. The group donated $4,854 – the most raised by any high school group participating in the event.
“We had the largest team,” Brennan added, proudly.
One of the highlights of the month-long school mission was a Mass celebrated Oct. 21 in the McNally Gym to remember those who died from breast cancer and to pray for the intentions of those struggling with the disease.
Father David Ricard, chaplain at Kent Hospital, Warwick, celebrated the Mass. Dozens of students submitted the names of individuals to be remembered in prayer.
During October, members of the school’s fall athletic teams showed their support to find a cure to end breast cancer by wearing pink wristbands and encouraging fans to dress in pink. Part of the proceeds from admission fees to some athletic events was donated to cancer research.
Jeff Sabo, president of the senior class and captain of the soccer team, said that he learned a great deal during the month-long school mission.
“I thought it’s been a wonderful eye opener,” he said. “It teaches students that they are responsible for caring for others.
“Everyone has probably had some experience with it, “ Sabo emphasized, adding that he was moved by Underwood’s powerful presentation.
Sabo emphasized that one of the most important things he learned about breast cancer is that scientists need to set a goal to find a cure for the disease. He composed a prayer offered at the Mass and before a recent soccer game.
Freshman Adetokunbo Ademola said he achieved personal satisfaction by participating in the Gloria Gemma Foundation fundraiser.
“It was great to help people who have breast cancer,” he said. “It really taught me how important it is to end this disease quickly.”
Ademola added that the educational component of the mission was extremely helpful.
“I really didn’t know that men could get breast cancer,” he revealed.