Thousands expected to attend 'Flames of Hope' in support of those with breast cancer

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The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation, a Rhode Island Nonprofit, anticipates a record number of people to attend its annual Flames of Hope: A Celebration of Life Weekend due to the activities and international attractions planned for this event, scheduled Sept. 29 and 30.

The first Flames of Hope held 13 years ago consisted of local hospitals handing out resources and a ceremony on the State House steps followed by a torch procession of cancer survivors and family members who lost loved ones to cancer to the Providence River Basin to light WaterFire.

“We never imagined this event would draw so many people into the city. The police count back then was 100,000 people. It just proved that needed resources and support services,” said Maria Gemma-Corcelli, the executive director.

Since the first Flames of Hope in 2005, it has continued to expand with the addition of events, making it necessary to hold the event over two days.

“It is three great events in one spectacular weekend,” said Martha Sheridan, of the Providence-Warwick Visitors & Conventions Bureau. “It truly is a destination weekend that offers so much.”

The weekend begins with the Passport to Survivorship Expo on Saturday morning at the Omni Providence Hotel. This free event is open to all cancers and the general public, and allows people to experience their wellness through numerous interactive exhibits. This event provides the latest in medical cancer care with holistic well-being, and exhibits are designed to heal mind, body and spirit. In addition, this year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Michael Greger, a best-selling author, founder of NutritionFacts.org and a sought after international speaker on public health issues.

“We are very excited to have Dr. Greger as our keynote this year, because his message is important,” said Gemma-Corcelli.

When Passport ends at 3 p.m., the Celebration of Life Festival begins in Station Park (downtown Providence). Like Passport, this free outdoor event provides experiential activities the entire family can enjoy. It also offers food and free concerts. This year’s headlining band is international sensation, Montreal Rhapsody Orchestra.

At sundown, the Illuminations of Life Ceremony takes place on the State House steps. A moving story of hope, faith, strength courage and determination is told through beautiful choreography by the State Ballet of Rhode Island, followed by a procession of 150 torchbearers to the Providence River Basin to light the largest WaterFire of the season.

“The energy at the Celebration of Life Festival is amazing; you can feel it. I think that’s why people come back year-after-year,” said Gemma-Corcelli.

The Flames of Hope Weekend concludes with the Gloria Gemma Run-Walk Series on Sunday morning. The series offers three different races and it’s the Foundation’s largest fundraiser which helps support the 20 free education programs and support services it provides to more than 5,000 people a year.

The morning kicks off with the Kids Fun Run that offers prizes and awards to the fastest runners and highest fundraisers. Following the Kids Fun Run is the Pink Pump Palooza, a hilarious 50-yard dash run in high heels by both men and women. Finally, approximately 4,000 participants make their way through historic Providence during the Gloria Gemma 5K.

“We are committed to helping people,” said Gemma-Corcelli. “And, this event allows my staff and I to help on a much larger scale.

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