By Kami-Leigh Agard
On Sunday, October 15, the boardwalk will be awash in a sea of pink and purple as a throng of supporters are expected at the 6th Annual Trina Williams Far Rockaway Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence Awareness Walk. Organizers, Lisa George, Melissa Harris and Annie Mohan invite locals of all ages and walks of life to come out in support of the event’s two-fold goal: Raise critical awareness and support for individuals affected by breast cancer and domestic violence, and significantly honor and drive the legacy of the walk’s founder, Trina Williams, who herself succumbed to breast cancer in 2021.
Since 1985, October has been designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with the goals of educating the public about the importance of early detection and funding research for a cure. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), after skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women with the alarming statistic that one in eight (or about 13%) have a lifetime risk of getting breast cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, behind lung cancer. However, organizations such as ACS say the best intervention is early detection through self-screening breast exams in combination with mammograms. Women who receive regular screenings for breast cancer have a 26% lower breast cancer death rate than women who do not receive screenings. Breast cancer in males is a rare occurrence (less than 1% of all breast cancer cases occur in men), however, just because it is rare doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and learning the facts and statistics about this condition can save lives.
George shared, “One of the reasons Trina started this walk was because her dad had passed due to cancer, and she felt that Rockaway should be a designated site for cancer survivors and supporters to walk in solidarity. As she stated, ‘We have five miles of boardwalk. Why are we leaving the Rockaway peninsula to travel to Flushing, Long Beach or Central Park?’ So, she started the walk here on a small scale, and in the second year when I heard about it, I joined in.”
George also shared that, unbeknownst to herself and many community members, Williams, then 50-years-old, was facing her own battle with cancer.
She said, “When I got the phone call in February 2021 during Covid that Trina passed of cancer, I said we can’t let what she started die. So, since then, myself and Melissa Harris, who started the walk from its inception with Trina, and Annie Mohan collaborated to continue expanding on Trina’s legacy and mission.” George said she contacted ACS Making Strides, the nation’s largest and most impactful breast cancer movement, and since then, the walk has grown from raising a record-making $10K last year, to this year’s goal of $15K.
Though October is known for being covered in pink with breast cancer awareness walks and campaigns happening nationwide—in a shadowy shroud of darkness lays the color purple bringing awareness for victims and survivors of domestic violence. One in four women will experience intimate partner violence in her lifetime, and two out of three children are exposed to violence. Also, men are victims of domestic violence.
According to Harris, Williams was also a passionate advocate for domestic violence awareness.
Harris said, “Trina also worked for the Nassau County Coalition of Domestic Violence, and enjoyed providing counseling and assistance to victims of domestic violence and child abuse.”
For George, William’s push for domestic violence awareness became critically relevant when in March of 2021, 26-year-old Far Rockaway native, Destini Smothers’ body was found in the trunk of an abandoned car in Queens. The coroner established that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to her head, coupled with a blunt blow to her head. On the run for more than a year, her boyfriend was charged with the brutal murder; incidentally, Smothers was the mother of his two young children.
George said, “The domestic violence piece hit home with this young lady’s body being found last year. It wasn’t until some residents started complaining about a foul odor, the car was towed, and Destiny’s body was later discovered in the trunk. Her mother’s family came and spoke out about this. The boyfriend, charged as the killer, was sentenced 25 years to life.”
Whether it’s women or men, wives or husbands, children or babies—Williams recognized that no-one is immune from sickness, death and abuse—this is why she pioneered Rockaway’s first-ever combined Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence Awareness Walk. And with the support of the community, her legacy will remain as a banner for others to forever remember and follow.
The 6th Annual Trina Williams Far Rockaway Breast Cancer & Domestic Violence Awareness Walk is happening on Sunday, October 15. Registration begins at 8 a.m. The walk officially kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Attendees are encouraged to wear pink or purple. Also, there are tee shirts for sale. Walk route: Beach 17th Street and the boardwalk to Beach 73rd Street, then back to Beach 17th Street, where there will be a closing ceremony, house music after-party with DJs, and vendors and community organizations providing critical community resources and giveaways. To register, join a fundraising team and for more info, see QR code below or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.