On Oct. 2, MaineGeneral’s Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care (HACCC) hosted the second annual Day of Hope, an event for cancer survivors and their families and friends to gather and celebrate. The Day of Hope combines two of the hospital’s older events: Cancer Survivors Day, which honors past and current cancer patients, and the Walk for Hope, a fundraising event for the HACCC.
For a second consecutive year, the Day of Hope took place virtually to prevent a potential COVID-19 outbreak among participants as cancer patients in active treatment are considered immunocompromised. The event coordinator encouraged participants to walk through their neighborhoods or on one of the area’s beautiful walking trails.
MaineGeneral Director of Marketing and Communications Joy McKenna explained MaineGeneral’s decision to combine its Cancer Survivors Day and Walk of Hope. After holding Cancer Survivors Day for over two decades and the Walk for Hope for more than seventeen years, the HACCC decided that it could create a more powerful event by fusing the strengths of the two events into one.
“Combining the Walk for Hope with Cancer Survivors Day brings together the best of both events with the purpose of celebrating and honoring our cancer community, providing educational and screening opportunities and raising funds for the HACCC,” she said.
In creating the Day of Hope, the HACCC was responding to the recommendations of previous participants, many of whom wanted the events to include more activities.
“We heard from our walkers, for example, that they wished the morning could last longer. Now walkers have the opportunity to join in the fun, education, hope and healing that Cancer Survivors Day participants are familiar with,” McKenna explained.
In addition to a more comprehensive experience, participants can also celebrate cancer survivors with a larger group of people. By combining the two events, the HACCC has introduced two communities to each other.
“Our cancer patients and survivors get the added experience of seeing g members come together to support them and preserve local cancer care. The connection between the two, sometimes separate audiences really adds value to our community,” McKenna said.
She also discussed the HACCC’s decision to host the Day of Hope virtually and the challenges that accompanied an online setting. While a virtual event prevents the spread of COVID-19, especially the infectious Delta variant, McKenna believes that it can also make it more difficult to engage participants.
“The key to making this event as meaningful for participants as we hoped was to ensure there was still engagement, which is harder to do when you cannot gather in person,” she said.
To keep the community engaged, the HACCC organized a series of “pop-up” events at MaineGeneral and local businesses. These pop-ups allowed participants to show their support in-person while also minimizing contact with others, an important part of keeping the community safe.
“We had spaced out the times and locations of the pop-ups to make it easy for people to collect their participant packets, purchase gifts, and share their stories. We had great feedback from the pop-ups,” McKenna said.
At the pop-ups, participants could drop off donations, retrieve their walker bib, pick up educational materials, shop the Hope Shoppe, where the HACCC sells Day of Hope merchandise, write a message of appreciation on the HACCC Hope Wall, and take a picture in the Day of Hope photo frame. Most importantly, participants were able to meet other members of the community.
“We had a very good turn-out at each location, and thank the hosting businesses for giving us visibility with their customers and staff,” McKenna said.
Alongside the pop-up events, the HACCC hosted a virtual opening ceremony on the morning of Oct. 2. This ceremony was designed to inspire participants and foster a sense of community.
“While virtual, the Day of Hope still celebrated our cancer community and supported the work and patients at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care,” she said.
Participants in the Day of Hope raised more than $162,000, an astounding figure that will contribute directly to the mission of the HACCC.
“We are grateful that we have surpassed our fundraising goal,” McKenna said. “Each dollar raised goes to supporting the ever-growing needs of the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care.”
These donations will pay for technology upgrades at the HACCC and for programs that assist patients with transportation, urgent care needs, and a variety of other issues. This money will further improve the already-excellent care that HACCC patients receive.
“We are extremely grateful for the support of our community,” McKenna said. “We’ve all been touched by cancer in some way and we know the importance of having high-quality cancer care close to home.”
After a major success this year, McKenna is looking forward to the 2022 Day of Hope, which will hopefully bring the community back together in-person.
~ Matt Rocha `23