Kappa Phi Sorority to Host Cancer Walk on Campus

News Story: September 1, 2010
Members of SHU's Kappa Phi sorority with Jeanne Noonan-Whitely (far right) during last April's Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Walk.

An act of kindness performed last spring by nine members of Sacred Heart University’s chapter of Kappa Phi sorority has led to a life-long friendship with a woman in New York and a sorority-sponsored event on campus to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research.

Kappa Phi will host its first-ever fund-raising pancreatic cancer walk and vigil on Saturday, Oct. 16, and the sorority sisters have invited Jeanne Noonan-Whitely, of New Rochelle, NY, to join them. Noonan-Whitely has accepted their invitation. Registration for this event will begin at 8am on the Flik Patio on SHU’s main campus in Fairfield. The walk, which will be approximately 3 miles, is set to kick off at 9am.

Their friendship began on a rainy day last April 25 when all were participating in the Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Walk in Rye, NY.

“My chance encounter with these very extraordinary young women was so special. It lifted my spirits and my heart. They made a deep impression on me and everyone with whom I have shared our story,” Noonan-Whitely said. The story began as the walk was ending.

Each participant in the Lustgarten 5K walk was asked to contribute at least $50. The SHU students had not raised enough to cover that registration fee for all nine of them to enter, so they donated what they had raised and joined the volunteer crew instead. As Safety and Gear patrol, the SHU students came across Noonan-Whitely late in the event. She was walking with a heavy heart in honor of her brother George. He had died of pancreatic cancer only four months before.

“It was the last mile. She was walking alone. We told her we wouldn’t let her be the last one to cross the finish line,” said Ashley Savage, 21, of Brooklyn, NY, who graduated in May with a degree in Finance and Business.

Noonan-Whitely said she was grateful for their companionship along the route.

“It was a fairly miserable day and I was definitely at the tail end of the pack. They were real cheerleaders for me,” Noonan-Whitely said. “I was really having a hard time keeping it together. I am sure they do not realize how much they lifted my spirits by including me in their group,” she said.

As they walked together the students talked about their efforts to promote awareness of pancreatic cancer and support research. Kappa Phi is involved in a number of community service projects, and members added pancreatic cancer to their agenda after sorority sister, Rebecca Tafaro, 23, of Mendham, NJ, lost her father, Joseph Tafaro, to the disease in 2009. Rebecca got a degree in Exercise Science in May.

“They really touched my heart and inspired me to make an additional contribution to pancreatic cancer research on their behalf,” Noonan-Whitely said.

Lauren Yancigay, 20, of East Islip, NY, a senior Psychology major in the five-year Master’s program leading to an MAT, said Noonan-Whitely inspired them. “She touched our life as much as we touched hers,” Yancigay said.

The students met a second person at the Lustgarten walk that had a profound impact on them. Allison Bennett, 19, of Manorville, NY, a junior majoring in Media Studies, said a man approached the SHU students, shook each of their hands and told them how impressed he was to see college-age students up so early and participating in the walk. “Then he turned around and we saw the back of his shirt. It said, ‘I walk because my wife survived.’ There is hope,” said Ashley Pannese, 21, of Trumbull, CT, who graduated in May with a degree in Chemistry.

“It’ll be such a big deal to have our own walk on campus,” Pannese said.

And it will be a big deal to have Noonan-Whitely walking beside them, the students said.

“I am looking forward to walking with them again at the Kappa Phi walk in October,” Noonan-Whitely said.

The other SHU students who participated in the Lustgarten Walk are Kristen Buccholz, 21, of Bethel, CT, a senior Graphic Design Concentration major; Jennifer Porti, 18, of Roslyn, NY, a junior majoring in Accounting; Katie Swanson, 20, of North Haven, CT, who is a senior Psychology major in the five-year Master’s program leading to an MAT; and Samantha Mentore, 19, a junior Pre-Pharmacy major from West Hempstead, NY.

For additional information on the upcoming cancer walk, please contact Kappa Phi Community Service Representative Lauren Yancigay at 631-960-1677 or via email at yancigayl@sacredheart.edu.