WEST HARTFORD — Breast cancer survivors and their supporters enjoyed food, fun and dancing Wednesday at the Pink Party.
"We're so excited every year to paint the town pink," said Meg Staubley, event coordinator with the Farmington branch of the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer.
Revelers, dressed in pink, packed Blue Back Square, and Komen's 500 $20 swag bags sold out soon after the party began at 5 p.m. All of the proceeds from a raffle and other fundraisers go to Komen, Staubley said.
Now in its fourth year, the Pink Party kicked off October's Breast Cancer Awareness month locally. It included 35 breast cancer survivors modeling in a runway fashion show, live music, and 40 vendors.
Breast cancer survivor Claire DiCenzo, 31, a teacher from Middletown, said she was attending the Pink Party this year for the first time.
DiCenzo was diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 after noticing a painful, marble-sized breast lump while in the shower.
"I feel like women need to be aware of their bodies and listen to their bodies," DiCenzo said.
DiCenzo had no family history of breast cancer. She is below the age at which mammogram screenings are recommended, and she said she's lucky to have caught her lump herself. DiCenzo blogged about the experience and is planning a book to share her story with other young women.
She attended the party with Diane Cavaliere, 52, of Wethersfield, a fellow teacher in Southington.
Cavaliere said she organizes an annual breast cancer fundraiser at their school. Rather than donating money to a large organization, this year they made care packages for women going through chemo that included candy, reading material and fuzzy socks.
DiCenzo and another cancer survivor at the school recommended the items after going through treatment themselves.
"It was a wake up to me because I never knew what a chemo patient goes through," Cavaliere said.
Venecia Matos, 32, of Waterbury, said her grandmother died of breast cancer at age 32, and her mother at 42.
For years, Matos said she wanted to volunteer with cancer organizations but the thought made her too sad.
But after participating in a cancer fundraising walk in 2010 she volunteered with Komen at the Pink Party for the first time this year because, "it could happen to me," she said.
The Pink Party's upbeat atmosphere "feels amazing, you don't feel sad," Matos said.