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Rich Mineo
2019 Ambassador

Diagnosed with follicular b-cell lymphoma in the spring of 2016, Rich Mineo has been a frequent visitor at DKH. After undergoing digital imaging, Rich’s lymph node was surgically removed and biopsied which confirmed he had grade one, stage three follicular b-cell lymphoma. His treatment plan consisted of two years of immunotherapy which he completed in August 2018.

The most common sign of follicular lymphoma is a painless swelling in the lymph nodes of the neck, armpit or groin. “When I felt a lump under my chin, I knew exactly what it was. I had done enough research to know that if you press on the lump and it doesn’t hurt, odds are its cancer,” said Mineo. “The care I received at DKH was great. I felt comfortable within the first half hour of being at the hospital. The nursing staff was kind and caring and I grew close to many of them over several visits to DKH. I always felt like I was in good hands.”

Follicular lymphoma tends to behave like a chronic condition with people experiencing long periods of relatively good health. Rich expects to need more treatment down the road, and explained why supporting the NECT Cancer Fund is important to him, “I don’t want to receive my care anywhere else. Day Kimball Healthcare is a critical resource not only for me, but all of Northeast Connecticut, so it’s important that it has the financial resources to remain in the community and expand its services for future generations.”

When asked how he felt about his appointment as this year’s Walk & Race Ambassador, Mineo said, “I will do whatever I can to support DKH and other patients and families who are battling cancer. The NECT Cancer Fund of DKH benefits our community by keeping proceeds local, offering assistance to those who otherwise may not have the financial resources to obtain treatment and care.”

Although Rich was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and has lived in several other locations before settling down in Northeast, Connecticut, he has found a home here in the quiet corner, where he has resided for the last 25 years. His biggest support comes from his wife, Wanda, Vice President of the Woman’s Board of Day Kimball Hospital, his daughter, son, grandsons, and friends. Now in his retirement years, Rich enjoys bicycling, league bowling and participating in tournaments, aerobics and weight training, and volunteering for Day Kimball Healthcare.

Shannon Labonte
2018 Angel Ambassador

In October 2017, Shannon Labonte, a Danielson resident was diagnosed with a rare form of bile duct cancer. She brought courage, grace and a positive spirit to her battle until her passing in April 2018. Prior to her passing, Shannon said about her role as this year’s Walk & Race ambassador, “It really means a lot to me to have been chosen to represent cancer care for the race this year. I feel honored to have this opportunity to spread awareness and talk about this different and rare form of cancer. This will be a great way to get out in the community and spread the word, and share how good it makes me feel to be named the Ambassador this year.”

Shannon lived in Northeast Connecticut all her life, and remembers participating in the Walk & Race event as a kid. She recalled, “I grew up in Putnam and can remember doing the race as a child. It was such a fun atmosphere, and I remember waiting around all day with my raffle ticket hoping my number would get called! We are lucky here in Northeast Connecticut to have an amazing town with amazing events like this one. The race has been a local tradition for so many.”

She continued, “The cancer fund is such a great opportunity for those in our community who otherwise may not have the financial help for their care. The money being raised through an event like this can really go a long way in helping to take care of things during this disease. There are so many things to think about when you’ve been diagnosed. Worrying is not something you want to be doing when you’re trying to fight a battle in your body. Having this resource available for people can give them such peace of mind. It’s one less thing to have to think about.”

Norm Perron
2013 Ambassador 

I am honored for the invitation to be “Ambassador” for the 2013 Day Kimball Healthcare Annual Deary Memorial Cancer Fund. I could think of at least 100 individuals (well maybe at least 10) that are certainly more deserving than me.

After being influenced by Peter Deary's exposure, I related better to what he had experienced.  In January 2004, I lost my wife Bonnie, at age 53, to Leukemia. We had been married for 33 years. That still remains a very critical time in my life and my first close encounter with cancer. 

 In the fall of 2010, I was feeling well and strong or so I thought.  Just simply had my annual routine physical – only to discover that I was a possible candidate for Prostate Cancer.  One more doctors’ appointment, and the confirmation, as disturbing as it was – made me realize I was not ready to be tied down with this.  In addition to working full-time as a Project Manager and Construction Supervisor for Bertin Engineering, I continued as the Assistant  Fire Chief for the Putnam Fire Department and Fire Marshal for the Town of Putnam.   I just didn’t have time for cancer!

 It’s now 2013 and I have been cancer free for two years and I am thankful for each and every day.  I remarried and I am very thankful for my wife Terry and her continued support of everything I am involved in.  I am grateful for the support of all of my family, colleagues and brothers at the Fire House and for my brother Ed Perron, who is also a survivor of Prostate Cancer.  I expect the 2013 DKH Deary Memorial Race, Walk and Ride will continue to be as successful as past years and many years to come.  Their success has helped scores of individuals and their families.  I’m proud to be part of that family of survivors.

Diane Kozaczka
2012 Ambassador

Diane Kozaczka experienced a bittersweet moment in March of 2011. She was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer on the very day her first grandchild was born. Three weeks later, on the day she started chemotherapy, her second grandchild was born. Her initial reaction to all this: "I'm too busy to be sick"! As well as being a new grandmother, Diane is a branch manager at Citizens National Bank, assistant treasurer in the Thompson Lions Club, and she and her husband are the owners of Nextgen Security Company.

Diane began a regimen of treatment every 14 days. She had surgery in August and finished radiation in November. “During this ordeal I was fortunate enough to have a good health insurance plan which took care of the high costs associated with this disease, something that seems to be a rare commodity these days. That’s why I am honored to be this year's ambassador to help raise funds for the Day Kimball Healthcare Deary Memorial Cancer Fund. I also hope to be an inspiration to those battling any type of cancer”.

Diane says she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness she received from members of Creation Church, her coworkers, family and friends. She adds her biggest source of strength was her husband Kevin, who kept the family business running smoothly while bringing her to every treatment and caring for her afterwards.

“Participating in the Deary Memorial Race/Walk gives me the opportunity to give back to a community that supported me during my time of need--and for that I am eternally grateful”.

Peter Deary
2011 Ambassador

Peter Deary is a member of the founding family which  has helped thousands of people in Northeast Connecticut in their battle against cancer. What few people know is that Peter himself is a cancer survivor.

Peter is one of the area's most respected community leaders. President of Sunnyside Convenience Stores and Deary's Gymnastic Supplies, Peter has been honored by Rotary International and received the prestigious Humanitarian Award from the Northeast Connecticut Chamber of Commerce. Peter is also vice president of the Board of Directors for the Citizens National Bank and former member and Chairman of the Board of Day Kimball Healthcare. Aditionally Peter is a Deacon at First Congregational Church of Pomfret and serves on the Foundation Good Samaritan in Action - through this group Peter has traveled to Haiti providing healthcare to the impoverished people of that country.

In 2006, Peter's car was hit head-on by another driver - leading to the inadvertent discovery he had kidney cancer. Peter was reluctant to accept the role of ambassador because he feels so fortunate he was diagnosed and treated early and has been in remission since. In his words, "I am thankful for each day. I appreciate the simple pleasures and rewards in my life knowing that each day is a gift." Peter and his wife, Kim, live in Pomfret and have two children.

Heidi Blackmar, 2010 Deary Memorial Race Ambassor

Heidi Blackmar
2010 Ambassador

Heidi Blackmar of Pomfret is a breast cancer survivor who is running her own “Amazing Race”.

Diagnosed less than a year ago, Heidi has undergone surgery and chemotherapy all while keeping pace as a wife, working mother of four, and volunteer. She has been employed at Day Kimball Hospital for eight years and is often found at the front reception desk, greeting those who enter with her warm, enthusiastic smile. Heidi is also a member of the “Well Wishers” at DKH, raising funds for oncology patients, and she finds time to volunteer with her daughter at her local animal shelter.

At home, Heidi keeps busy as a gardener, quilter, cook and baker. Her sister-in-law Carrie Blackmar says, “What amazes me most, is Heidi’s upbeat attitude throughout her treatment”. When Heidi’s hair began falling out, she asked her husband Brian, (her high school sweetheart) to shave her head. Then she laughed at her reflection in the mirror, and made a fashion statement with her ever-changing headdress. Because of that experience, Heidi has launched the “Mad Hatter” campaign, collecting new scarves and hats for local women undergoing chemo.

Last summer, in the heat of her battle with cancer, Heidi entered the Deary Memorial Road Race/Walk with her large, extended family by her side. Even though there was a wheelchair available, she walked the entire five miles, to say “Thank You” to the Deary’s for the help they were providing her.

Heidi’s motto is, “I want to make the world a better place.” We think as the Deary Memorial Ambassador—she already is!

Scott Spalding from the Woodstock Academy, ConnecticutScott Spalding
2009 Ambassador

What is most impressive about Scott Spalding is his energy and typical “teeness.” A junior at Woodstock Academy, Scott enjoys soccer, wakeboarding, driving his sports car and hanging out with friends. After being diagnosed in 2006 with Ewing Sarcoma, a cancer of the bone or soft tissue, Scott immediately underwent aggressive treatment at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, CT, a provider partner of Day Kimball Hospital. He’s now in remission with no evidence of active disease, but still receives ongoing care. Scott says, “I like to do whatever I can, whenever I can – as much as possible.” His mother, Annette Martel, says “I’m very proud of him for agreeing to be the Ambassador for the Deary Race & Walk, he’s going to reach a generation that will be informed about the history and importance of this event. The Deary fund is meaningful and I like the fact that the funds stay local.”

Linda DeMarco, maternity ward nurse & race Ambassador AngelLinda DeMarco
2008 Ambassador

In 1999, our mom and wife, Linda DeMarco, was diagnosed with breast cancer. For what most people is a disease, she took up as a personal challenge. Not just for herself to battle and get better, but as a companion and champion for others who were dealt that frightening and unjust hand.

As a nurse in the Day Kimball maternity ward, the compassion and shear strength of understanding hurt and joy and suffering was her calling. A cancer survivor for eight years, she brought this strength and determination to the battle against breast cancer. As a support group volunteer, she shouldered the tears, anger and pain that many women endured after being diagnosed. And she walked countless miles to raise awareness and help seek better treatments.

In 2008 she was named the Deary Race & Walk Ambassador Angel, an event she loved dearly. I can’t express how much we miss her, but we’re honored that she lives on with us and the community she embraced, as we all carry the torch to battle breast cancer.

Kristen Storer, Amanda DeMarco and Rick DeMarco

Margaret Loew, cancer survivor

Margaret Loew
2007 Ambassador

In 2001 at the age of 45 I was diagnosed with colon cancer even though there is no known cancer in my family. The tumor was removed and I was fortunate that I did not need any additional medical attention after my recovery. I had surgery on March 1st, was declared cancer free later that week and ran the Deary 5 mile in August. It was a stretch, but the positive energy that continues to flow thru me kept me going. I consider myself very lucky. I have a tremendous support system including my daughter, siblings, mom and my extended network of friends. I have supported the Deary event for many years; have served on the committee and thru my employer UNFI we continue to support funds staying in the local community. I was born at Day Kimball and feel that giving back to our own community is important. I was honored and humbled to be chosen the ambassador for the 2007 event.

Lynn Brodeur
2004 Ambassador

In 1999, during an annual routine mammogram screening, my doctor detected the early stages of breast cancer. Due to a long family history with the disease, a lumpectomy was immediately scheduled which was followed by seven weeks of radiation treatment at UMASS Medical. I didn’t have much personal experience with cancer and going to the UMASS Oncology Department for the first time was frightening and overwhelming. However, that the staff at UMASS was very understanding and very caring. Additionally, I had a great support team at home and at work: my children, my family, friends and co-workers. My co-workers at Putnam Bank picked up my workload without a complaint, which was such a relief to me. Not worrying about work plus everyone’s support and encouragement helped me heal quicker. Knowing I wasn’t alone and that I had the support of others meant so much to me. I was also fortunate to have a physician who cared enough about me as patient to highly suggest I start routine mammograms when I turned 39. His dedication left an everlasting impression on me, and my cancer could have been more advanced without his insightfulness. 

This experience with breast cancer changed my life not just the physical part of the experience but the emotional part as well. That is why I volunteer and support the Deary Event. This event allows me to give back to others in the community. Many people may not have the resources to pay for preventive medicine or cancer treatment. I appreciated the emotional strength and encouragement from others during my experience with cancer and realized that it was invaluable to my recovery. This is why I insist on being a member of this worthwhile event and many others like it. It is very rewarding to do something good for your community and to know you have a positive impact on others. It is a pleasure to be part of such a powerful committee and to have served as an ambassador in 2004.

Claire St. Jean
2000 Ambassador

In 1996 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through two surgeries and received chemotherapy and radiation treatment. My battle with breast cancer was difficult, but I got through it all with the help of family and friends, and a caring team of doctors and nurses at Day Kimball Hospital. I was honored in 2000 by being chosen ambassador of the Day Kimball Hospital Deary Walk. My family and I have enjoyed supporting and participating in the event since that time.

Although happy to be a 13 year breast cancer survivor, I am now battling an even greater foe. Early in 2009, doctors at Day Kimball discovered a mass in my pancreas. I underwent the Whipple Procedure in April and have recovered very well from such major surgery. I am currently receiving chemotherapy to fight any remaining disease in my system. With the support of my family and friends, and my caretakers at Day Kimball, I am determined to beat this terrible disease again! I thank all those who support the Day Kimball Hospital Deary Event, in its mission of helping fellow patients. I am proud to be part of its history.