After participating in the Wilmot Warrior Walk with friends in September 2019, Cyndi Lembo felt inspired. She pledged that next year, she’d create a team in honor of her late husband, Marty, who died from colon cancer in 2018, and to thank the oncology team at Wilmot Cancer Institute who cared for him: Richard Dunne, M.D., Fergal Fleming, M.D., Roberto Hernandez Alejandro, M.D., Sulynn Richards, R.N., and others.
“We could not have asked for a better team to be by our side,” she says.
But then, COVID-19 arrived in Rochester and everyone’s world turned upside down. The pandemic only solidified Cyndi’s drive to get involved.
“During this time, I have thought a lot about the patients and families who are dealing with cancer on top of COVID,” she says. “When I saw the Facebook page announcing the virtual walk, I knew I wanted to do something to support the teams at Wilmot with their research and honor Marty in the process.”
So, she created Team Marty and began inviting family and friends from near and far to join. So far, the team has recruited 95 people from nine states. In total, they’ve already raised more than $3,400.
And, of course, they are using this to celebrate Marty.
“My dear friend Beth said it best, ‘to know Marty was to love Marty,’ and there is so much love coming from all over the states to honor his memory,” Cyndi says.
On the weekend of the Wilmot Warrior Walk, she plans to invite local team members to walk or run one of three routes in Fairport – 1 mile, 3 miles or 4 miles. All routes lead back to Cyndi’s home, where team members will enjoy an outdoor brunch, with appropriate safety precautions, of course.
Meanwhile, in Portland, Maine, and Atlanta, Georgia, teammates have planned happy hours. In Colorado, a family friend is planning a hike in the mountains. In California, Cyndi’s sister and some friends are planning to celebrate with a meal. Others around New York and other states may run or walk their own routes, or may just lift a glass to Marty that weekend.
“I let people know they could honor his memory in any way that they thought would bring a smile to Marty’s face,” Cyndi says.
Back in 2019 when Cyndi first thought about creating a Team Marty, she – like all of us – had no idea how different things would be in 2020. But a virtual Wilmot Warrior Walk does have a silver lining.
“The bright side of it going virtual is that we are reaching across the states to celebrate Marty and raise money for Wilmot. And in doing so, we are bringing small groups of people together to enjoy food, drink, exercise and each other’s company,” she says. “I cannot think of a better way to honor Marty.”