Rhode Island Allies, formerly Voices of Rhode Island, was formed in 2007 by Barbara and Joe Joyce. The two had attended the Colon Cancer Alliance National Conference in the fall of 2006 and discovered Rhode Island did not have an active chapter. The couple had a vision to raise colorectal cancer awareness throughout Rhode Island. The Warwick Beacon was instrumental in introducing Barbara to the community. They ran her personal story about her fight to beat colon cancer and promoted her quest to grow the Voices of Rhode Island chapter. Soon after, Voices of RI's secretary, Joyce Giarraputo, was one of the first to respond. Several other survivors and caretakers have joined the organization since, and in 2009, they held the First Annual 5K Walk/Run held at Warwick City Park, Asylm Rd., Warwick, RI
Since then over 900 people have participated at one time or another. In 2017, the 5K raised over $10,000. Rhode Island Allies uses the proceeds to fund Health Fairs throughout Rhode Island and Connecticut, advertise locally to promote screening/awareness, support March - Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and outreach to the community by meeting monthly, donating to the National Blue Note Fund and providing colorectal cancer information to physician offices throughout Rhode Island.
EXECUTIVE BOARD - BIOS
Barbara Joyce, Chairman and Founder
I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1980 and in 2003 with Stage IV colon cancer. I prayed that I would live long enough to attend my son's wedding, seven months away. Then I aimed to reach my 50th wedding anniversary, and to make each of my children and grandchildren a sweater. I succeeded in accomplishing all of those things and have now made sweaters for my great-grandchildren!
It all started when I viewed a segment of about the CCA on the "The Today Show" in 2004. I contacted the group and together with my husband, Joe, attended the Colon Cancer Alliance National Conference in the fall of 2006 and discovered Rhode Island did not have an active chapter. Joe and I had a vision to raise colon cancer awareness throughout Rhode Island. Subsequently, Voices of Rhode Island, local chapter of the CCA was formed in 2007. The Warwick Beacon was instrumental in introducing me to the community. They ran my personal story about my fight to beat colon cancer and promoted my quest to grow the chapter. Six year later, I am chairperson of the board and state coordinator of the Voices of Rhode Island. I am active at the National level as a "Buddy" to other individuals living with or recovering from colon cancer. I recently received the "Volunteer of the Year Award" from the CCA and I'm also very active in The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, a partner to many cancer organizations including the Voices Chapter. In June 2012, I was awarded the "Partnership Spirit Award". My quest is to raise awareness - One voice can save a life!
Joseph Joyce, Co-Founder (In Loving Memory)
Joseph Joyce was a valuable member from the start of the Colon Cancer Alliance Voice of Rhode Island. He was the husband of the group's founder Barbara Joyce. Joe was her loving and supportive care taker. He stood by her through all her trials and troubles. He shared her bad times and reveled in her successes. He was her backbone and because of his loving and caring support she was able to do all the good work she has accomplished with in this group and in her life. Joe succumbed to Lung and Liver cancer in June of 2012. Even though he is not with us in body his spirit is within us.
Martin Gomm, Outreach
I am a member of the Colon Cancer Alliance Voices of Rhode Island because my Grandmother passed away from Colon Cancer and my Mother-in-Law is a 10 year 4th stage Colon Cancer Survivor. My primary job in this group is to run the physical arrangements for the Voices of Rhode Island Colon Cancer Awareness 5k Walk/run held every August. I have never had this disease but I am part of my Mother-in-Law's support network. I am there when she needs assistance, whatever that may be. I am proud to be associated with this fine group of caring and understanding members.
Patty Gomm, Treasurer
I have been a part of this group since it started here in Rhode Island. My primary responsibility for the Colon Cancer Alliance Voices of Rhode Island is being the Treasurer. I am also responsible for the physical arrangements for our Colon Cancer 5K Awareness Walk/Run held every year on the first weekend in August. I have never had to deal with the personal emotional and physical toils this disease takes on an individual; but I have been part of the support network for my mom, who is a 10 year 4th stage Colon Cancer Survivor. Not only do people need a caretaker but they also need a strong support network to guide them through. This group is made up of individuals willing to put forth so others will be able to find some solace when they need it the most. I am blessed to be a part of it.
Maria Kerwin, Co-chair
I've been a part of the Voice of Rhode Island, Colon Cancer Alliance since 2007. I was diagnosed at 42 with Stage IV colon cancer and was seeking out a local group for support. I assume the role of Co-Chair for the group. My passion is to educate and inform those younger than 50 years old that colon cancer is a silent killer and should not be ruled out as a diagnosis due to age. I enjoy organizing and raising funds for our annual walk and contributing in any way I can. I work full time for Bracket Global in the Clinical Research industry and enjoy my wonderful and supportive family - husband Bob and sons - Nick, Mitchell and Max - and of course, my pugs, Lexy and Mya. I cherish each day of my life and feel blessed to be here!
Joyce Giarraputo, Secretary
For the past six years I have been secretary of Colon Cancer Alliance/Voices of Rhode Island. I was born and raised in Rhode Island into a family that consisted of my mother Marie, father Tony Sr., and older brother Tony Jr. After graduating from high school came love and marriage which resulted in the births of my daughter Tracy and son Christopher, both now married with families of their own.
After twenty-five years of marriage, my husband left our family and shortly thereafter I learned that I had stage 3 colon cancer. During my illness Tracy oversaw the household and my every need while Christopher became the main financial support of our family. Fortunately, after six months of chemotherapy I was declared cancer-free.
At middle age I decided to attend college and received Paralegal Certification from Providence College which enabled me to be employed as a paralegal in excess of ten years. After a layoff I worked as a receptionist/switchboard operator for a national motivational, educational corporation for five years and retired in December 2012.
I now devote my time to my grandson and granddaughter, to Voices of Rhode Island recording minutes of the monthly meetings, attending health fairs, participating in chat forums, posting on Facebook and working with other members to organize our annual walk. Voices of Rhode Island definitely is a passion of mine.
Doug Kraus, Outreach
I was diagnosed stage III colon cancer in February 2007. The doctors were not sure if the cancer had spread to any lymph nodes. I participated in a trial cancer treatment had concurrent radiation and chemotherapy and then my surgery in July 2007. During surgery the doctor told my wife he thought he could remove all the cancer but that I would have a permanent ostomy. He was able to remove all the cancer and after pathology the doctors told me it had not spread to any lymph nodes.
I joined Voices of Rhode Island shortly after they formed and while planning their first walk. I was assigned outreach. Retired, I have been doing health fairs, promoting prevention and screening. Because of my colostomy, I tell people I don't know if I am coming or going. I ask people if they would rather have a colonoscopy or colon cancer.
Since joining I have also had bowel obstruction surgery and kidney cancer, which I am told was not a metastasis of the original cancer.
I am the treasurer at my church and enjoy taking care of my granddaughter. I remind people, I enjoy looking down at the grass rather than looking up at the roots.
I joined Voices of RI after participating in the 2010 Colon Cancer Awareness Walk. In 2009, much to my surprise, I was diagnosed with Carcinoid cancer of the intestine after a routine colonoscopy. I want to get the word out to others who may be putting off this life-saving test. Working with Voices of RI is a great way to get this done.
My very supportive husband, Mike, also joined the group. We have worked at health fairs and we help with the annual walk. I am employed at ADP as an implementation Project Manager. I enjoy and appreciate my family: my son Dan & daughter-in-law Amy; my daughter Sue and especially my grandsons ... Brennan and Caden. I feel very fortunate to be where I am today!
Sheila A. Amaral
Colon cancer was something other people had, or so I thought. I was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer in September 2012. Following my surgery and six months of chemotherapy, and recovery, I decided to participate in the annual walk because I needed to connect with others who had gone through this life changing experience. I was just so grateful to be alive and wanted to help spread the word through my involvement with the Voices of Rhode Island Colon Cancer Alliance about the cancer that no one wants to talk about. People need to know that screening is easy and can save lives. By participating in health fairs, our annual walk, and telling my story to anyone who will listen, I want people to know that screening is easy, and to do what you need to do to take care of yourself. I can tell you, it sure is easier than surgery and chemotherapy!
Eight years ago, I retired from my full time as position as executive assistant after 35 years at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. I continue to work part-time at Healthtrax Fitness and Wellness. I enjoy spending time with my husband, who recently retired, my two great kids, family and friends. I look forward to doing some traveling, and some day, enjoying my grandchildren. I am blessed to still be cancer free and am glad I listened to my body and didn’t hesitate to get screened. Life is good!!
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