After Tom Keilty lost his wife, Ruth, to stage four breast cancer last year, he decided to fight back by raising money to help find a cure.
Keilty has organized a fund-raiser at Raging Waters on May 6 to benefit the City of Hope’s “Walk for Hope to Cure Breast Cancer.” He hopes the community will show support by purchasing tickets to the exclusive event before the April 28 deadline.
“People are feeling very empowered by doing this and feeling they can give back and make a difference,” Keilty said. “Ruth’s life was like that—she asked the Lord to use her life, and her legacy is continuing on.”
Keilty formed “Team Ruthy” for the City of Hope’s Walk for Hope just a few months after his wife died on March 10, 2005. He set a goal of 100 participants and was happily overwhelmed when 235 people joined his team and helped raise $17,000. Keilty has set a goal of 2,500 people for the Raging Waters fund-raiser with the hope of raising $25,000.
“The way he is taking a stand for breast cancer research shows that he is a crazy, wonderful, fabulous gentleman and human being,” said Sherilyn Canady, one of Walk for Hope’s directors of development. “Some people get angry after they lose someone, but other people, like Tom, say ‘We’re glad we had her for as long as we did, but we want to keep her memory alive.’”
Canady started the City of Hope Walk for Hope 10 years ago and she has watched the fund-raiser grow from 1,200 participants in 1996 to last year’s 8,500 participants. With the help of walkers like Keilty, she hopes to have 10,000 people at the 11th annual Walk for Hope on Oct. 8, 2006, and raise $1 million for breast cancer research.
Canady remembers an emotional moment at last year’s walk when City of Hope patients wheeled their IV poles to the windows to wave at the passing participants.
“They had their masks on and they were waving, and the participants were looking up and waving back,” Canady said. “It was very emotional and the walk is just such a great way to showcase what we do at the City of Hope, not only with research but patient care.”
Keilty’s Raging Waters fund-raiser will take place on May 6 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., one day before the water park officially opens for the summer season. All the rides will be open and Keilty plans to entertain his guests with a live band and DJ, 4-on-4 volleyball and “give-aways” from community vendors. A portion of the ticket prices will be donated to the Walk for Hope, with $8 donated from every $28 adult ticket and $4 donated from every $24 child admission ticket. Each ticket includes one single-use food voucher worth up to $7.
“Our family fought the illness for 12 years and obviously during that time we weren’t able to do the fund-raising and the marches and that stuff because we were so in to the heat of the battle,” Keilty said. “Now that we got through that, it’s our season now to give back in a different way.”
Keilty wants the Raging Waters event to be a great time for all who attend, but he also wants to raise awareness and get more people to participate in the Walk for Hope. According to the City of Hope, more than 250,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2006. Nearly 41,000 will die from the disease this year alone.
“Part of me wants to do this because I want men to become more aware and realize that this is affecting their mothers, their daughters, their wives,” Keilty said. “We need to step to the forefront and really band together because when a woman leaves, you’re by yourself.”
Diane Dix, the Keiltys’ neighbor and Ruth’s former caregiver, remembers how Ruth agonized that she would not get to see her kids grow up or her grandchildren come into the world, but she also realized that she had a purpose in this life. Ruth’s story is now helping make a difference in the lives of those who may go through the same thing.
“Even though she would have hated her picture all over the place when she was alive, I’m sure that through what (Tom) is doing her purpose is being realized,” Dix said. “Their love was very, very strong and it was special even just to have seen it for a little while.”
Ruth and Tom Keilty were married for 25 years and have three children. Their daughter, Regina Suchanek, changed the date of her wedding in 2004 so her mom could see her walk down the isle.
“Breast cancer was a big part of our lives and it would be easy to just say it’s not in our lives anymore,” Suchanek said. “But we’re not just putting this behind us, we’re giving back. My mom would have wanted to give back as well.”
If you would like to attend the Raging Waters event on May 6 and contribute to the fight against breast cancer, contact Tom Keilty at (909) 592-5906 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the City of Hope’s “Walk for Hope to Cure Breast Cancer” please visit www.walk4hope.org.
Angie Gangi can be reached at email@example.com.