‘Mountain Mamas’ take on breast cancer | SierraSun.com

‘Mountain Mamas’ take on breast cancer

Photo by Katherine MorrisFrom left: Mary Zapponi, Nikki Riley and Laura Mello will raise money for breast cancer research.

Mary Zapponi has lost three aunts and her godmother to breast cancer.

Nikki Riley never had the chance to meet her grandmother, who lost her life to this fatal disease before Riley was born.

Laura Mello’s mother was barely 38 years old when she first discovered the malignant tumor lodged in her chest. Luckily, she is one of the survivors, though.

In memory of those that they’ve lost, as well as those who’ve survived – and in the face of their own risks for contracting the disease – these three Truckee residents will hit the streets in a mid-October with 7,000 others for the annual Avon Breast Cancer Walk.

Money raised from this three-day, 60-mile walk along the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Barbara to Malibu, goes toward breast cancer research, as well as preventative health care services like mammograms for women who cannot afford them.

Avon, which held its first breast cancer walk in 1994, now hosts 13 different walks around the country each year.

“This disease is everywhere, and Truckee is no exception,” said Mello, who will be walking with Riley and three others as part of a group called the “Mountain Mamas.”

“I think it’s rare that you talk to anyone these days who doesn’t have a sister, mother, partner, friend, coworker, or someone in their lives that has been affected by breast cancer.”

Mello said she’s walking, not only to honor her mother, but also with the hope that events like these will someday raise enough money to help wipe out the disease forever.

For Riley, the walk is also about raising awareness and encouraging others to get involved in finding a cure.

“It just strikes me how prevalent this disease has become,” she said. “It affects women of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. I also think it’s important for regular people to get involved in something like this, to serve as an inspiration to others.”

To train for the event, Zapponi and Riley said they’ve started walking to and from work.

“I get a lot of people who stop and ask me for ride, but I always tell them that I’m training,” Zapponi said. “Now, people that know wave to me when they see me walking.”

Zapponi will be walking with three of her cousins as part of the “Salyer Sisters” in remembrance of the loved ones they’ve lost.

All three women expected to have an advantage due to the lower elevation of the event.

“We’ll be at sea level, which will be great,” Mello said. “I’ve always got so much more energy when I’m off the mountain.”

Once there, participants camp out each night, but are provided with water and snacks along the route, daily meals, entertainment, and hot showers.

“I think it will be a lot of fun, like a big party,” Mello said. “For those who still want to sign up, it’s not too late.”

Aside from training, the group has been fund raising for event. Each participant is expected to raise a minimum of $1,900.

“We’ve also got to pay a $75 registration fee and pay for transportation to and from the event, so it’s no small investment,” Zapponi said.

None of the women have yet to reach the $1,900 mark yet and are seeking donations from the local community. All donations are tax deductible.

“People should know that this event goes to support a really great cause,” Mello said. “So many women in our community alone suffer or have suffered from this disease.”

For more information on how to make a donation, please contact Mary Zapponi at 582-4624 or Laura Mello and Nikki Riley at 587-6003.

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