BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Christ Church International of Jamaica will hold its second annual pink balloon release in remembrance of loved ones who have lost their lives and to express hope for all survivors.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer, the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among females, is also the second leading cause of death among women, with an estimated 40,000 deaths per year.
Although breast cancer death rates have steadily decreased nationwide, Kelly Riggins, associate pastor at Christ Church International, said that she has been hearing more stories about women who have been diagnosed with the disease.
“It seems like the number of women diagnosed is going up and the age of the women are going down,” said Riggins. “I’m hearing about it more and more in the Black community.”
After hearing from some of her parishioners who have been struggling with breast cancer, Riggins was inspired to create an event that will bring awareness to the cause – not only as a means of recognition, but as a means of educating the public of the importance of mammograms.
“We did it last year to really just raise awareness. We have had members who had breast cancer and gone through the experience,” she said. “This year will be a little more sentimental as one of our dear members passed this year of breast cancer.”
“That’s why this is so important,” she went on to explain. “Early detection is key. We should be more aware and conscious. Tell your daughters and tell your nieces to start checking themselves early. It’s so important and it saves lives.”
Riggins said she feels that it is the responsibility of Christ Church International, and all religious institutions, to educate the community about breast cancer and the importance of getting screened for the disease.
“Every Sunday this month, we have information that we give out – even to the little girls because they also need to be aware,” she said. “It is our responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and ourselves. We have to come out of the church and educate the community. We want to save souls, but we also want to save lives.”
Last year’s pink balloon release was a great success, Riggins said. Nearly 300 Southeast Queens residents came out to show their support for the cause.
“Some people drew hands on the balloons to release the situation into God’s hands,” she explained. “We have to support the cure and make sure we are aware. All we can do is hope and pray and the rest is in God’s hands.”
“When the balloons are gone and in the sky, released from your hands – that’s it,” she added. “All we have is God and we need to have faith in God – no matter what the outcome is.”
The pink balloon release will be held at Christ Church International on Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. It is free to attend and all are welcome to join. Christ Church International is located at 122-21 Merrill St., Jamaica.
For more information about the event, you may call the church office at (718) 276-2799.
Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @nkozikowska.