Club Fit Member Spotlight: Maria Sanchez

May 29, 2018 by jeanne

Club Fit Member Spotlight: Club Fit’s Tennis Community Comes Together for One of Their Own

By Lisa Olney

A lot more than winning records, aggressive net play, and plantar fasciitis are cultivated on the tennis court. So are lifelong friendships with people so special that it can be hard to remember a time when they weren’t in your life. Just ask Club Fit member Maria Sanchez from Yorktown, who met some of her best friends on the Club Fit Jefferson Valley and Briarcliff tennis courts almost 25 years ago. Like family, Maria and her tennis friends have shared the celebrations of each other’s milestones along with the despair of life’s tragedies, such as the loss of one of Maria’s four vibrant, accomplished children, Maribel Sanchez Souther to breast cancer in 2016 at the age of 41.

Maribel was a five-year cross country and track star at Yorktown High School, beginning as an eighth grader. She won multiple Section 1 cross country championships and finished fourth at the indoor National Championships at two miles. Maribel attended Dartmouth from 1992-1996, winning several Ivy League titles in Cross Country, Indoor Track, and Outdoor Track, leading the 1996 cross country team to a fifth-place NCAA finish. The first Dartmouth female runner to be an All-American in Cross Country, Maribel ended her collegiate career as a four-time All American. After college, she ran professionally, coached the Hanover High School track team, and returned to Dartmouth as its head cross country coach and assistant track coach. Maribel’s time as a collegian at Dartmouth is credited as the catalyst in rebuilding the women’s track program.

In March of 2014, the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center launched its annual Team Tennis to Smash Cancer fundraising event at Dartmouth’s Boss Tennis Center. Maribel presented her mom with the ultimate of family visits – play in the all-day tennis fundraiser and visit the grandkids – a definite win-win for this 4.0 USTA player. Maria was partnered with an oncologist from the Cancer Center. Little did she know, that just a month later, her new tennis friend would be the oncologist who delivered an unexpected diagnosis to Maribel: Stage 4 breast cancer. Just two and a half short years later, Maribel lost her battle against cancer on December 31, 2016.

The Hanover and Dartmouth community lost an inspiring, joyous, hardworking leader that day, evidenced by her alma mater renaming their invitational, season opening cross country meet to the Maribel Sanchez Souther Invitational. Maria’s closest tennis friends rallied around their dear friend in any way they could. When Maria shared that she was continuing her annual trek to Hanover for the 2017 tennis fundraiser in honor of Maribel just a few months after her passing, Dee Young, Margo Smith, Ginger Canfield, Andrea Oncioiu and Maria Borg packed their tennis bags and joined her in Hanover, forming the team, Maria’s Crew.

Still wondrous that her friends would drive all the way up to Hanover for her, Maria remembers thinking, “It’s too much for them, how can they do it? I was very surprised — not even our family could come up.”

This year, Maria’s crew couldn’t make it to Hanover for the fundraiser so they took the fundraiser to Club Fit, organizing a round robin on Sunday, April 29, from 3pm to 6pm at Club Fit Jefferson Valley that drew 25 women and raised $2,400 for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Dee, Margo, and Ginger organized the event and Kelly Thomann created the format for an easy, fun, and non-competitive round-robin format, ensuring a great format for all skill levels. Maria’s son, Silvio Jr., and granddaughter, Camille, were on hand as well to cheer on this outpouring of love and support from the Club Fit tennis community.

When a last-minute venue change was required, Michael Bratt, Club Fit Jefferson Valley’s Tennis Program Director, accommodated the event and donated three courts for three hours, becoming the event’s knight in shining tennis armor. Michael provided a level of support – before, during, and after the event – beyond the call of duty, exemplifying Club Fit’s mission of supporting their members. “Mike is warm and gracious and always willing to lend a helping hand,” Margo says. “I can’t give Mike enough praise,” adds Dee. “He was so helpful and supportive.” Maria couldn’t agree more with the level of commitment Mike shows to the Jefferson Valley tennis family. “I don’t have words to describe Mike or to thank him for all the things he did. I hope he stays here forever,” says Maria. “We need somebody like that. He’s doing great things for the Club and made sure we were taken care of. He was a lifesaver.”

From graduations to grandmother showers, no other recreational sport creates such opportunities for the development of deep-rooted, lifelong friendships. Years of playing as partners, on season courts, or in the competitive USTA and club leagues, builds strong bonds and a family dynamic. “We all try to have each other’s backs,” explains Margo “and given Maria’s circumstances, there is nothing we’d rather do than be there for her in any way we can.”

Perhaps Margaret Mead said it best when she penned “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Maria Sanchez’ tennis family at Club Fit and beyond embodies this philosophy, and it is clear that their show of solidarity will remain with Maria forever. “I feel that I owe my life to them,” Maria explains. “Even if I can’t help my friends, I can and will help someone else.”

Breast Cancer Wellness

November 26, 2014 by karen

— written by Club Fit Member and Guest Blogger Lisa Skelton

 

Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Dr. Sandra Brennan supports utilizing physical activity to help combat breast cancer.

Dr. Sandra Brennan, radiologist & breast cancer specialist
Club Fit member Dr. Sandra Brennan, Director of Breast Imaging and Interim Director of Radiology at the West Harrison outpost of New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Dr. Sandra Brennan may be new to Club Fit, but the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, for both her patients and herself, is not new at all. Dr. Brennan is Director of Breast Imaging and Interim Director of Radiology at the new West Harrison outpost of New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a long-anticipated and welcomed resource for Westchester County’s cancer patients.

Hailing from Ireland, where she attended University College Dublin and completed her residency at Mater Misericordiae Hospital, also in Dublin, Dr. Brennan came to the United States in 2005 to complete a fellowship at Sloan-Kettering’s Breast and Body Imaging Center, and the rest was history. During the fellowship, she sharpened her expertise in imaging of tumors in the chest, abdomen and pelvis, as well as in breast imaging and intervention, and upon completion of the fellowship she was invited to join the faculty in Sloan-Kettering’s Department of Radiology.

Currently, her focus is on breast imaging, which involves interpretation of screening and diagnostic mammograms, ultrasound examinations and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Her clinical work includes state-of-the-art procedures such as image-guided biopsy under stereotactic, ultrasound and MRI guidance, and breast localization procedures with both radioactive seed and wire localizations. Radioactive seed localizations are a relatively new approach that she says will be put into practice in MSK West Harrison in the new year. “The field is constantly evolving, and the number of options available to our patients continues to grow,” she says.

The opening of the West Harrison facility was a great opportunity for Dr. Brennan, who is also mom to six-year-old Samuel and four-year-old Leah, to get out of the city and into the more family-friendly suburbs. The family recently moved to Chappaqua and joined Club Fit Briarcliff, where they enjoy the Aquatics Center on weekends, and Samuel has been playing basketball. Dr. Brennan is no stranger to health clubs, and staying fit has been a lifelong practice. “I run, cycle, hike, swim…I’ve even completed some half-marathons!” she said. Since joining Club Fit, she gets in two to three visits per week, and has been spending her time in the Fitness Center. She’s looking forward to exploring other areas of the club with her children in the coming months.

One program that piqued her interest was the Cancer Wellness Program, which has been a part of Club Fit’s programming for a number of years. Free to cancer patients, both members and non-members, this strength and cardio conditioning program is designed to meet the special needs of people undergoing and recovering from cancer treatment. “There is growing evidence to suggest that maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active may reduce your risk of getting certain types of cancer such as breast, colon, endometrial and prostate,” says Dr. Brennan. “Patients who exercise and pay attention to their overall wellness tolerate treatment better, and in many cases experience a faster recovery.”

With the opening of the West Harrison facility, Sloan-Kettering has expanded its presence in Westchester County, which it has served since 1995 through its facility at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow. The facility’s staff includes more than 100 professionals, including cancer surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists and radiologists. “What we’ve done is bring all the services of the main campus in Manhattan to Westchester, allowing patients access to the same high-quality services without the commute into the city,” says Dr. Brennan. Add that to the plethora of support groups and other resources available to cancer patients in our area, and a cancer diagnosis becomes a much easier burden to bear, for both patient and caregiver.

Click here for more information on Sloan-Kettering’s West Harrison facility, as well as Dr. Brennan and her colleagues. You can also click here to find out more about Club Fit’s Cancer Wellness Program, a valuable resource to anyone fighting the battle against cancer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support Connection Director Kathy Quinn

August 28, 2014 by karen

 

Support Connection Executive Director and Club Fit Member Kathy Quinn
Support Connection Executive Director and Club Fit Member Kathy Quinn

In this day and age, turning a negative into a positive is definitely a reason to celebrate. This October, local nonprofit Support Connection is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first Support-A-Walk for Breast & Ovarian Cancer. This grassroots event today draws close to 10,000 participants, and laid the foundation for the organization itself, which opened its doors in the Roma Building in Yorktown Heights in September of 1996.

One of the driving forces behind Support Connection is Executive Director and Club Fit member Kathy Quinn, who was inspired to get involved after attending that first walk in 1995 in support of a close friend who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She found out about the walk while researching support services for her friend, and was moved by the turnout, which quadrupled the expected numbers from 200 to 800. She reached out to walk organizers Nancy Heller and Rich Adamski, and together with other supporters came up with the idea to use the funds raised to start up Support Connection as an educational and emotional resource for breast and ovarian cancer patients. The rest is history. “The unique thing about our organization’s model is that all of our professional Peer Counselors are cancer survivors,” says Kathy. “When we began, our idea was to give patients access to others who had gone through the same experience, and could truly understand their situation.” Support Connection has stayed true to that model to this day.

“Because we work very hard to operate within a very modest budget and use volunteers to assist with fundraising and outreach, nearly 90 percent of all funds raised goes directly to funding our free, confidential programs and services. I am blessed every day to see what a difference is being made, how a difficult situation can be helped by offering an anchor to someone in need.” Today, the number of support groups has grown to twelve, and services are offered nationwide. What started as a local resource is now an educational and emotional support system for thousands, with well over 5,000 people benefitting from the services offered to date. In our area, many take advantage of the one-on-one and group counseling, wellness seminars, toll-free educational teleconferences, and social workshops offered, including a yoga class held on Saturdays at Club Fit Jefferson Valley, for which Club Fit donates space.

“Club Fit has been a staunch supporter for many years, also sponsoring our golf outing,” says Kathy. “It’s really wonderful how they promote good overall health throughout our community, to all populations and age groups. Our survival is based on the support we get from local individuals and businesses like Club Fit.” Kathy, a Shrub Oak resident, is passionate about Support Connection’s mission, often working nights and weekends. “It’s so rewarding to see the end product of the work we do,” she says. “I come back every day for that reason.” She also devotes time to her husband, four children and two grandchildren, and tries to take time to take care of herself, using the Fitness Center and Aquatics Center at Club Fit. “I now understand the value of places like Club Fit, not just for the cancer patient, but also for the entire family,” she says. “Going to the gym is a step in the right direction for anyone physically, but it’s also a great stress reliever for those either going through or supporting a family member or friend going through cancer treatments.”

As successful as Support Connection has been, there is still much work to be done. “Our ongoing challenge is that while people value the support we provide, they don’t put a dollar amount on it,” says Kathy. “So much of the money that is raised in other nonprofits is used to fund research, but the emotional support our programs provide is also so critical in a cancer patient’s journey.” Kathy’s friend Isabel, who was the reason for Kathy attending that first walk, passed away not long after Support Connection was established, but Kathy considers her the inspiration that keeps her going. “Every day I work in loving memory of Isabel,” she says. And at every walk, the thousands of participants and volunteers are working and walking to honor those who have won as well as those who have lost the battle against breast and ovarian cancer.

For more information on how you can get involved or how you can access the services offered by Support Connection, visit www.supportconnection.org, or call the Support and Information Hotline at 1-800-532-4290. You can also register for or make a donation to this year’s Support-A-Walk, to be held at FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights on Sunday, October 5th, on the website. If you have never attended, Kathy highly recommends that you come, if just to experience the camaraderie. “As big as our event has become, the wonderful thing about it is that we are all there as one big family, celebrating and paying tribute to loved ones and letting people dealing with cancer know we are walking right beside them.”